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OLAs: Defining The Framework For Great Service Delivery

By Robert Hall, Support Analyst, Marval


An operational-level agreement (OLA) defines the interdependent relationships in support of a service-level agreement (or SLA).

Put simply, it is an internal document, owned by the Service Management Team, that defines the working relationship between different functional areas. It sets out the responsibilities for the support and delivery of IT services to customers. It could be used for occasions where a service fails, or in support of Change Management. It is designed to support the qualitative and quantitative statements contained in the Service Charter or SLAs.

So, what should an OLA include?

1.      First of all, a description of the purpose; why it’s required and what we are trying to achieve (or agree upon).

2.      A timeframe: when it starts, when it ends or for how long it applies.

3.      Service description and availability, including operation days and times.

4.      A detailed reference to who is involved, defining specific roles / responsibilities and the escalation paths.

5.      Procedures that will be followed.

6.      Review dates, if applicable.

7.      Terms, conditions and exceptions, e.g. particular business, environmental or other circumstances where the delivery of service might be interrupted.

Below is an example requirement from an OLA, this section covers Order Processing:

·         Timeline target – 4hrs / Same Business Day

·         All orders to be processed within 4hrs of receipt of order

·         Orders received after 3pm to be processed by 11am following business day

·         Meet procurement deadlines

·         Meet warehouse despatch deadlines

·         Customer to be notified of receipt of order – Immediate

This kind of detail must be defined and agreed upon early on in the negotiation and procurement of services; otherwise the SLA and the OLA is doomed to failure. Take for example the Order Processing extract above. 4 hours is reasonably generous, agreed? But without the ‘received after 3pm’ addition, there could be orders that would never be fulfilled on the same business day unless your business has very flexible staff that can process the orders, pick the stock and ship the goods afterhours! In any case, nowadays customers have time-bound delivery slots agreed in advance, so even if your teams bust a gut to get a late order out, it might get rejected at the delivery point – who have their own SLAs and OLAs to meet.

Similarly with ITSM Service Desks, we can (and usually do) meet all demand thrown our way. A software tool such as Marval MSM has built-in features that allow a Service Desk Manager to keep on top of time-bound activities and make the appropriate arrangements to avoid breaching “Fix and Respond” targets. This could take the form of a simple worklist that is refreshed at regular intervals and provides an easy to view list of outstanding Incidents, Tasks, Change Requests. The SLA times are handily displayed, and email alerts can warn the right people before the available time expires.

OLAs support and reinforce SLAs, and help Service Desks develop and maintain a functional and collaborative relationship with their customers, built upon pre-agreed operation processes. Using great ITSM technology, Service Desk Analysts can stay on top of any current agreements and focus on what they do best: provide a great service.

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