SLA – Service Level Agreement

A conflict resolution tool to resolve conflicts caused by the sort of people who need service level agreements.

SLA’s between different organisations make some sense but within the same company its rather misguided in my opinion.

Do Becks and Roo have an SLA – provide x number of passes within y meters of my position, or else what? (apologies for anyone who doesn’t follow English football – I dont blame you).

Does Ricky Hatton  have an SLA with his second?

Does Dougie Lampkin ( ) have an SLA with his Dad? (his dad is (/was?) his spotter – the one who tries to catch the bike when it all goes pear shaped)

The point is people on the same team shouldn’t need SLA’s. And anyway any agreement is only as valuable as the penalty for breach. So if your IS department don’t fix your pc within the SLA, what going to happen? A ‘fine’? A dismissal? or more likely nothing.

I struggle to see the point of SLA’s between depatments in the same company.  All it demonstrates to me is that the departments don’t trust each other. Which suggests they are not all pulling together in the same direction. Goal mis-alignment? or is it goal incongruence?

So I think the existence of SLAs is an indication of a disjointed, uncoordinated, untrusting organisation, not the other way around. What do you think?

Where do you think SLAs are useful? (If at all)



5 Responses to “SLA”

  1. MikeC Says:

    Don’t get me started..!
    SLA is a word that should be, in 90% of the cases where I personally see it, not used. Here, it’s used with our external client, external contacts, internal inter-departmental communications and processes, and, best of all, between members of the same team*. Who sit next to each other.
    Unfortunately, our management are more obsessed with being able to pin who caused the process to fail/falter than just fixing the damned problem. They will spend hour after hour in meetings, requiring “tracks” of “issue progress and process”, every type of chart under the sun, in order to “prove” something. Which could usually be fixed in 10 minutes and then forgotten about… But hey, it justified their salaries**.

    SLAs are useful in some situations. In an outsourced call centre, for example, they have an SLA to answer x% of incoming phone calls within y time. If they don’t, they suffer a financial penalty. (Which is why TalkTalk run their own call centre…!)
    But to apply an SLA to the time I take to answer an e-mail? No. It’s almost Python-esque. But it happens. And also guarantees that I don’t answer it until I’ve had an additional coffee and finished discussing the latest news with my co-workers (kinda like attaching “high importance” flags to every e-mail).

    * I have started to apply SLAs to people getting the coffees in. I may need counselling after this.
    **No, I don’t work for the Government….!***
    *** I think I may read Raymond Chen’s blog too much….

  2. Simon Says:

    Good points Mike – some people seem to have that high priority flag set as a default, so I dont know what they do if they get something genuinely important.

  3. Marcus Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I’d have to agree with your interpretation of SLA’s although they do have their place. As per MikeC’s call centre example, for some tasks you need to gauge your performance against something. Unfortunately that ‘measure’ is usually used as a tool for finger pointing or back-side protection rather than a guideline. I’ve also seen SLA used to determine bonuses and drive performance reviews.

    For me the biggest culprits tend to be the IT dept. where too often an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality is prevalent. Um, fellas, aren’t we all on the same side here? Apparently not.

    I’ve also seen one manager move from a call centre to MIS. It took him a while to move from a ‘calls per hour’ mentality to one where productivity measurement is less clear-cut.

    SLA’s also need to be careful what they’re measuring and how they’re measured and subsequently interpreted. One bank call centre I developed reports for measured productivity on calls processed per hour and response time. We eventually discovered that a couple of the ‘star performers’ exceeded their SLA’s by deferring calls to other operators (hand-balling) or not resolving the issue on the first call (i.e. break one long call into three smaller ones).

  4. Ross Says:


    I don’t blame SLA for anal people! I have worked in a few places where SLA have been important – even internally with in big orgs.

    Like most things it’s about using the tool correctly, tools themselves are only useful or not, they cant be good or bad/increase performance or make things worst. It’s about how they are used. So I think you should add to your title “the misuse of…”.

    As for Roo and Becks, I doubt if those 2two fine minds need SLAs. However I know just those sort of sats will be collect after the match and that it will be used by the coaching staff – so yeah maybe to some extent Becks does have SLAs, but not with Roo, with the LA knuckle shufflers or what ever their called.

  5. MikeC Says:

    Slightly OT, but I can’t let Ross use the words “Roo“, “Becks” and “fine minds” in the same sentence without censure….!

    But yeah, sports fans are the worst for stats. Watch any American baseball programme, and there are enough numbers to stun an ox.

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