Are SLA metrics in telecommunications agreements worthwhile?

If you’ve been in the telecommunications industry for a while, it is likely that you understand that most SLAs are not worth the paper they are written on. Beginning with the fact that most SLAs apply only to the “core network” and therefore have little to do with an end user’s actual experience, and ending with a list of exclusions that is typically so broad it is laughable, there is little good that one can find to say about standard SLAs in telecommunications.

However, enterprise clients are having some success in negotiating meaningful custom SLAs that they say have an impact on their service levels. Since providers are reluctant to agree to custom SLAs, organizations know that they need to pick their biggest “pain points” and go after SLAs that are specifically targeted to their past experience. It is much more difficult for the provider to say “no” when you have historical evidence backing up your requirements. Another key point is that you must be the author of the custom SLA so that the provider can’t slip in a long list of exclusions. Finally, enterprise clients say that the monetary penalty does not have to be significant to make the SLA meaningful. Their experience shows that the fact that it is a custom amount provides sufficient motivation for the account team and upper management to want to avoid processing a request for noncompliance. Since a custom SLA is typically associated with a manual process for redress, it gets the attention of upper levels within the organization and enterprise clients say this is the real reason the SLAs make a difference. The provider will do everything they can to avoid a noncompliance situation.

The bottom line is that standard SLAs are useless, but a custom SLA crafted to address the particular issues that your organization is struggling with can be impactful.