The scope of the service level management practice in ITIL 4 includes:
Understanding the design and architecture of services and dependencies between services and other configuration items
The service level management activities form two processes in ITIL 4:
The management of SLAs – or SLA management – process includes the following activities:
The structure of an SLA and its content will depend on the service provider’s needs and its customers. However, an SLA will usually contain five key sections as a minimum:
SLAs and service level management fulfill many essential needs – from better defining the parameters of a given IT service, through measuring its performance and addressing any shortcomings (by either the service provider or customer), to providing a platform on which to build service-related and operational improvements. It does this by focusing attention on what matters most
The benefits of SLAs and service level management are in line with this:
In addition to the generic ITIL 4 changes related to:
ITIL 4 also includes some service-level-management-specific changes.
The term “service quality” was introduced and is “the totality of a service’s characteristics that are relevant to its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” This concept encourages service providers to look beyond what has been agreed on in the SLA to consider customer expectations.
The terms “operational level agreements (OLAs)” and “underpinning contracts (UCs)” were dropped. The previous versions of ITIL had SLAs set up between IT and the business customer, with these supported by
These three layers of SLAs made IT service delivery and support complex. So, ITIL 4 has streamlined this by having SLAs cover all aspects of service delivery, whether between IT and the customer, IT and IT, or IT and a third party.
In the ITIL v3/2011 service level management best practice guidance, there was a significant focus on warranty (ITIL 4 describes this as “Assurance that a product or service will meet agreed requirements. Warranty can be summarized as ‘how the service performs’ and can be used to determine whether a service is ‘fit for use’”). There’s now a greater focus on utility – “The functionality offered by a product or service to meet a particular need. Utility can be summarized as ‘what the service does’ and can be used to determine whether a service is ‘fit for purpose’” – and experience, plus the expectations on monitoring and reporting relative to these.
ITIL 4 also adds guidance on SLAs related to “out-of-the-box” services where tailoring is not permitted (versus ITIL v3/2011, which assumed that the service provider tailored every service to the customer, with SLAs tailored too). For example, “out-of-the-box” cloud services or outsourcing arrangements for smaller organizations.
If you want to learn more about the differences between ITIL 4 and ITIL v3, check out our Definitive Guide on ITIL.
When starting with SLA management, there are some key steps that an IT service provider should take. Many are similar to introducing other ITSM capabilities that are ultimately focused on the co-creation of business value and not simply the addition of new processes and tooling.
ITSM tools offer capabilities related to the breadth of the service level management practice and the management of SLAs. These capabilities include creating and managing multiple SLAs, holding and documenting review meetings, and identifying and actioning improvements using forms and workflows. Plus the ability to see and manage performance against agreed service-level targets in real-time.
Example service level management and SLAs capabilities provided by ITSM tools include the ability to:
To further explore the topic, make sure to follow these four tips to create an ITSM SLA.
A current ITSM trend is using experience-level agreements (XLAs). These agreements are a reimagining of SLAs to focus on what’s most important. They quantify the end-user experience and IT service outcomes to measure performance in outcome and value terms, whereas SLAs usually focus on operations and outputs. Organizations will generally add XLAs to SLAs rather than replacing the latter with the former.