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12 Questions to Ask Yourself on the How, Why and What of Your Service Level Agreements

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Susie West
CEO, sharedserviceslink

In preparation for our Shared Services Leaders Summit in March (8 weeks to go by the way) I am having lengthy and detailed calls with all our speakers. This is the best bit of my job. It's the time when they tell me the number one challenge they faced, and how they managed to get past it. It's when I find out what people are doing to problem-solve. It's goose-bumpingly brilliant.

I have just had a call with one speaker about SLAs. He has been instrumental in two shared services. And the SLA had a very different role in both. Mainly because of the culture of the organisation.

We were talking about the best shape that his story should take and we found ourselves getting quite philosophical about SLAs.

What do I mean? Well, we typically find ourselves asking 'big' questions about big organisational components, like shared services. But as we move down into the mechanics of what a shared services needs in order to move, our 'big' questions are asked less and less. And I question the sense of this.

So we decided to go for opening the presentation with 'what does an SLA mean to you?'. This was followed with, 'what is the intention of your SLA?'. These questions opened up a flood gate I wasn't quite prepared for and I found myself firing one question after another at this unsuspecting speaker. Here are some that we both brought up and that will be addressed during his session in March:

  1. What's the intention and role of your SLA?

  2. Why bother - what would happen if we didn't have it?

  3. What would the most amazing SLA actually achieve - what would that world look like and do we actually need an SLA to get there?

  4. Who is the SLA protecting, if anyone? Why do they need protecting? Is it just papering over another problem (should they need 'protecting'?)

  5. Can we give it another name - the term SLA doesn't guarantee heightened engagement and sounds a little dry?

  6. Is your SLA legal - if so to what degree and if there are penalties how will you enforce them?Who is going to make up the SLA police?

  7. Is it in the spirit of customer-supplier or partner-partner? What does your SLA say about your relationship with your customer?

  8. What needs to be in it and how long does it need to be? Is it a two-sider or does it compete with the national phone book?

  9. Who needs to be involved in the SLA creation and SLA governance?

  10. How do you want it to be used? Referred to daily or stuck in a drawer?

  11. How 'work in progress' should it be? Ie is it really a working document or is the final version 'signed off' for another year?

  12. What is your company's perception of your current SLA and does that perception fit?


We put so much importance on our SLAs. We just need to make sure their starting point is spot on. And that starting point starts with some fairly sizeable questions.

Join me for the full session on SLAs and how they can change your world at European Summit for Leaders in Finance Shared Services

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