The heart of the matter: Top tips for negotiating a service level agreement

Heart-of-the-matter

It’s at the heart of almost every business. Whether it’s sending and receiving emails, using specialised software to monitor stock levels or producing a presentation for an all important meeting, IT plays a vital but often under-rated role in businesses the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

People often fail to realise that IT is at the core of most businesses. This is a good thing. It means that everything is working as it should be. It’s only when IT systems fail that the realisation hits of just how integral IT is to innumerable daily business processes.

When this happens the immediate response is that it needs to be fixed and it needs to happen NOW! To facilitate this it’s crucial to have the right level of IT support in place. When arranging a contract for this service I always recommend working out and including service level agreements in the terms and conditions. Doing this means that should your systems fail you can be sure of getting the help and support required within an agreed timescale.

At the instant when IT systems break down the business manager doesn’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of what has happened, rather he or she needs the peace of mind that a service level agreement can provide; that within a stated amount of time someone will be on his or her premises starting to sort the problem out.

I have these suggestions for things to consider when negotiating a service level agreement.

Talk

Talk to your prospective service provider. After all they’re the experts in their field and will be able to advise you on the level of service they can provide and the type of response time you can reasonably expect from them.

You should also consider asking other business owners for their recommendations for a similar level of service – this will help you to decide whether what you’re being asked to accept is reasonable or not.

Write

Once they’ve been agreed, the terms of the service level agreement should be documented and held by both companies. This way each will have a record of what is expected of the service provider. This document should also provide details of any penalties that can be imposed should the service provider fail to meet the agreed response timescales.

Review

It is advisable to revisit service level agreements on a regular basis. This will ensure that they remain current and continue to service the business’s requirements.

Finally, as well as agreeing service level agreements it’s also worth taking the time to develop a close working relationship with your IT service provider. This will help them to ensure that your IT system continues to meet the business’s requirements as it grows.

Maintaining your system on a regular basis, ensuring that backups are routinely carried out and checking server logs are simple steps which can either help to prevent system failures occurring or to assist in restoring information which might otherwise have been lost.

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Sean Thomson is Director at Indigo Technologies. Indigo is a dynamic, fast growing IT company and one of the north east’s leading VMware Enterprise and Microsoft Gold Certified partners, delivering hosted and managed IT services to businesses - both large and small across Scotland and the UK.

  • Thanks for sharing tips for negotiating a service level agreement. Thanks for also your suggestions.