When Not to Use an SLA

Scott Calonico

sla drawingIf you run a professional MSP, you probably have service level agreements (SLAs) in place with your clients.

As well as enforcing a consistent level of service for your customers, SLAs allow you to clearly define what is expected of your company and also to make your customer’s obligations clear.

With this is mind, it may seem strange to suggest that, in some cases, it may be best to avoid SLAs.

However, in some situations (and with some customers) this can be a sensible strategy.

Here are some examples:

Unstable Networks

All experienced IT professionals know what it’s like to take on an infrastructure that has been neglected or badly managed.

If you are in the process of “picking up the pieces” after the departure of a previous support provider, it may be best not to agree to work to an SLA – at least not at first.

It is only fair to expect a certain amount of time to get the infrastructure back on an even footing. Quite often, your client may need to spend some money to achieve this. In these situations, you may wish to declare than you can only work to an SLA once certain prerequisites are met – otherwise your life may become unnecessarily stressful while you correct your predecessor’s mistakes.

Difficult Clients

All MSPs find themselves working for difficult or unrealistic clients on occasion. Some customers are never man yelling on phonesatisfied and some can be a complete chore to work for – rude, demanding and constantly tinkering with settings they don’t understand! Ironically, it’s often these clients who pay invoices late too!

When you find yourself doing business with clients like these, it’s worth asking yourself if you really want to be tied to an SLA – after all, an SLA is an agreement, not a stick to beat you with – but will clients like this truly understand that?

Informal Arrangements

You may find that your business ends up providing IT support to some companies on an informal basis – perhaps you swap services with your accountancy firm or manage the landlord’s network in exchange for reduced rent?

These “clients” probably don’t need an SLA if the informality of the arrangement suggests not. Obviously, you should ensure that your contracts and insurances cover you for the work you are doing on their systems, but these are probably not clients with whom you need to clearly define service levels.

It’s important to be clear that, in most circumstances, the use of service level agreements is a wise business practice and not one that any MSP should ignore. However, there are always exceptions to rules. Instinct is a powerful tool in business – if it warns you to be on your guard about any particular client, it is sensible to take notice.

While the correct reaction to this instinct is usually to get a detailed SLA in place, on occasion the best strategy may be the exact opposite!

Looking for more SLA tips?

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