Advanced Communication: Service Level Agreement

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Somewhat Difficult To Make But Simple To Use

Service Level Agreements can be exhausting to make and maintain if done as a lengthy contract for each individual service offered. At the TTU Library I simplified the process by:

  • Abstracting the basics that all services had in common
  • Creating links to individual pages for complex services
  • Negotiating a Priorities List that grouped services by importance
  • Introducing and negotiating a Responsibility Matrix and flow diagrams that listed who could make decisions under what circumstances

Commonalities

These are basics of uptime: We commit the systems running 98% of the time, give advance notice of necessary downtime, and communicate when there are problems. This is sufficient to cover most systems like intranets, shared drives, the website, and public machines.

More Complex Services

Aside from the basics, the Library has specialized software delivering a number of services. They were often housed on their own servers with custom installations. This put them under vendor SLAs as well as our own. They also were managed by faculty and staff who were not part of the IT department but who had final say over whether we could take a system offline or do emergency work.

This is where the flow diagrams and responsibility matrices came in. All staff had access to who they should contact, when and why. The loads of work put into these documents were well worth the effort.

A Note On Priorities

Every organization has a reason for living and accounting. On a practical level this is known as Mission and Business.

At the Library we further organized services into Global Mission and Local Mission. Global Mission services were things like the catalog, proxy server, and Document Delivery (Interlibrary Loan). Availability was 24/7 and had the highest priority.

Local Mission services were things like public computers and printers. Their availability depended on the operating hours of the Library and thus had lower priority.

Business services were the internals of the staff machines, shared drives, and intranet. Their availability was guaranteed during the office hours of the staff affected.

Projects were ranked along the same lines, with Global Mission projects given the most resources and shortest time to completion.