What is SLA and what is the role of SLA in the relationship between the customer and the contractor in the IT field.
Recently, a number of relatively new concepts have entered the life of enterprises that claim to become fundamental: ecosystem, platform, technology for optimizing business processes, innovative methods for rapid and agile development and interaction … Each of them is really meaningful and meaningful. Another thing is that the essence is often blurred behind a beautiful word, and only a common fashionable term remains on the surface, gradually turning into a dummy.
What is SLA?
A few years ago, this series of initially significant and content-filled concepts was supplemented by the term SLA (about quality of service).
To devalue the concept of SLA in this situation would mean to devalue the paradigm of the relationship between the customer and the contractor.
Many enterprises understand this, some even insist on strict adherence to SLA agreements. But the problem is that recently we have faced a number of new economic and social challenges, and business is doing everything to respond to them properly. Accordingly, the structures serving it must meet the new requirements. This fully applies to SLA: it cannot remain the same as it was two years ago. Let’s try to figure out what SLA is today, how and what it should transform into, and what it will become in a year.
Sometimes there is an “intermediate” SLA, where guarantees for each stage of the project are prescribed at the level of a specific agreement (intermediate point). In this case, most often the SLA is drawn up as an integral part of the contract, but the content load here is completely different. So, if the contract most often prescribes what will be done, to what extent and in what time frame, then the SLA declares how it will be done, at what expense, and what indicators are taken as specific indicators.
Nowadays, when business challenges are becoming more and more complex, and a series of crises, including a pandemic, is forcing enterprises to reduce the time lag to adapt to them, to work faster, better, in a new way, it would be strange if IT enterprises did not respond properly way. In the shortest possible time, complex group development methods (Agile, DevOps, sharing groups) were adopted by almost all professional IT structures – both large development companies and small highly specialized IT enterprises.
Of course, both distributed work, and the spike of developers and implementers, and the technology of creating software solutions broken down into small steps make it possible to achieve a quick result – solving the customer’s business problems – and even lay the foundation for building or developing information systems of any enterprise. But if both business and IT solution providers have responded to the current situation properly, then the guarantees, and above all within the SLA, in the vast majority remain the same. This means that ignoring the need to change the principles of SLA formation will inevitably lead to negative consequences.
Against this background, it is extremely important that the new SLA correlate with the methodology of modern agile development, and the traditional breakdown into stages is no longer enough here. Now the agreement on the quality of service should “adjust” not so much to the completed stages, but to each step within the implementation of each stage of the project. In the current realities, a comprehensive SLA should include not only guaranteed micro-stages of development and implementation, but also the responsibility of the integrator for each of them.
However, this approach places a burden on the company, which, under these conditions, is ready to take on the implementation of a project of any complexity. This is not easy, because in order to comply with such guarantees, it is necessary to provide a kind of “penetration” of the integrator’s working group into the “heart” of the customer, primarily at the level of a deep understanding of his business. The developer must know how the customer’s business processes are actually arranged, and, accordingly, how to change them. And finding and adapting the best technical solutions for this, improving them almost on the fly, while ensuring the continuity of the customer’s enterprise work cycle is the main task of a good IT partner.
It is obvious that it is almost impossible to achieve this by standard methods of outsourcing – here a fundamentally different form of work of the client and the contractor, a different level of interaction is needed. Today it is called “External IT Department”. It is only when this new service is rolled out that the updated SLA will become truly effective. And regular, when both the customer and the performer contact him on an ongoing basis (maybe even once every two weeks). And here’s how it works.
The function of setting the task (and this is the key stage of the project) is immediately distributed between the customer and the potential executor. From the first days, the developer/implementer takes on one of the key roles of internal audit (or consulting). Together with the customer, such specialists identify key business processes to be modified, develop a strategy and tactics for implementing business development, and select the best technologies for this.
Then the integrator company forms a highly professional team from a ready reserve, which, as a rule, includes: a project account, analysts, developers, testers, implementers, technical support specialists, etc. As a result, a ready-made IT department is literally immediately created, aimed at solving the problems of a particular enterprise, as if it were inside this company. An additional advantage of this approach is the release of the customer’s IT resources for solving other equally important tasks.
We are talking about two interrelated complex services that a modern IT developer is simply obliged to provide to a client today: a multi-level project, divided into micro-stages that he implements (an external IT department), and a regular SLA that provides a guaranteed result of each step within this project.
So far, this approach has not yet become widespread in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, we already have a number of projects successfully completed according to this scheme, and the scale of the customer’s business is not so important here: it can be both large enterprises and medium-sized businesses that do not yet have the proper experience in deploying their own IT systems, but already ready to approach this issue fundamentally.