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Guest post by Mike Alley, Director, Managed Services Solutions

In the world of outsourcing services such as remote infrastructure management, cloud and ‘whatever as a Service,’ SLAs are a hot topic.  Several viewpoints exist.  Some feel the more SLAs you have in a contract, the better performance you get from the contract services.  Others feel that SLAs are the minimum level of performance you should expect from the contracted services, best used in legal discussions should the partnership and service level falter.  In this second view, focus on the relationship with the service provider is of more importance to insure a high level of service.

No service provider wants to breach SLAs, or even expectations.   One can assume a service provider would only provide SLAs they are sure they can meet.   A better evaluation of a service provider may be the processes, tools and automation they have in place to insure they exceed SLAs.  These are indicators of the maturity of their service delivery model. SLAs overlooked or ‘glossed over’ during contract negotiations can result in a missed expectation and additional costs down the road.  But, too many SLAs or inconsequential SLAs, can convolute a contract and have similar results.

In 2009, Datamonitor issued a report based on a comprehensive survey of over 500 contracts.  They evaluated 18 KPIs and determined that the top 4 indicators of a successful outsourcing contract are Customization, Cultural Fit, Customer Relationships and Reliability – not SLAs.

What do you think?  Can SLAs drive the performance of an outsourcing agreement and this is Hype?  Or does the DataMonitor study have it right, and this is Ripe?

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