Service Level Agreements: How are you using them? Part II of II

This is the second part of a two part blog series about SLAs. In the first blog we discussed why SLAs fail in most organizations and, the importance of reviewing and updating them. In this blog, we will discuss how you can review and update SLAs in a simple manner that will help you, your employees and customers realize the benefits of SLAs.

At a high level, I have found that reviewing and updating SLAs can be broken down to a five step process:

  1. Define: Determine what you want your SLA to measure.
  2. Measure: Determine the level of detail you want your SLA to measure.
  3. Analyze: Determine the time value of your discrete SLAs as well as your end-to-end SLA
  4. Improve: Pilot and implement the new SLA(s).
  5. Communicate: Deliberately and repetitively communicate your new SLAs to employees and customer affected by the updates.

Let’s walk through the 5 above steps and establish an SLA for getting a morning latte.

1. Define: I first need to determine what I want my SLAs to measure. Do I want the SLA to measure how long it takes to purchase a latte or make a latte? I feel frugal today so, I’m going to make my own latte. With that, I would now map out all the steps involved in making my latte (i.e. turn on machine, grind beans, tamp coffee, pull espresso shot, pour milk, froth milk, etc.).

2. Measure: Leveraging the above process map, I now need to determine how detailed my SLA should be (when establishing within your organization, I recommend you establish a SLAs whenever there are time dependent activities or work stream transfers). For my purposes, I do not need an SLA for every single step involved in the process of making a latte; I will simply establish 4 high level discrete activities that require independent SLAs. They are as follows: Prep Machine and Ingredients, Froth Milk, Pull Espresso, Combine Ingredients.

3. Analyze: I will now begin to make several lattes over a period of time to measure how long each discrete activity takes.  After about 4-5 lattes, I feel like I have enough data and will use the average data to establish an SLA for each discrete activity as well as an end-to-end SLA. (The end-to-end SLA is normally a sum of all discrete activities however, be cautious of summing activities if there are multiple tasks completed in tandem.) If I wanted to challenge myself to be more efficient when making lattes, I could reduce each discrete SLA by 10% to help create some morning efficiencies.

4. Improve: Once I have assigned individual SLAs to each discrete activity and have an end-to-end SLA, it is time to implement the SLAs. I will establish a trial period (either set amount of time or, specific number of times that the SLAs are tested) for the new SLAs to ensure that they are accurate, if they are not accurate, I will go back to step 2 or 3 depending on what required adjustment (discrete activity vs. SLA).  Once I’ve determined they are correct, it is time to communicate these SLAs to my wife (wish me luck).

5. Communicate:  Communication is one of, if not the most important step in establishing SLAs. If I fail to properly communicate the new SLA and the reason for establishing them to the pertinent parties (my wife), there will be little to no adoption of the new SLAs. Failed communication not only can reduce potential efficiency gains but, it could also make my wife reluctant to adopt any new future efficiency initiatives. Because of that, I would encourage you to not establish SLAs for the sake of establishing them. Make sure that each SLA not only will produce realized efficiencies or data, but that you can easily communicate to those impacted the purpose and value proposition of each SLA.

With the SLAs communicated, monitor them and make sure that they are being used properly – if needed, make a few updates. As a last step, I encourage you to establish an owner who schedules periodic SLA reviews (1-2 times a year or, when changes in the process occur) to ensure that your SLAs continue to drive efficiencies.

With those five steps my wife officially thinks I’m crazy, and you now know the quick and easy steps to establish an SLA. If properly communicated, these SLAs can become very powerful tools; they will help create process efficiencies and improve the consistency of your employee and customer experience. Have any questions? Please contact me, Jordan Lehrman at Jlehrman@westmonroepartners.com .

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222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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