Many IT departments and organizations have been using Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) to manage their relationship with (internal) customers for the past 20 years or so. However there is a new trend, the eXperience Level Agreement (XLA).

What is a Service Level Agreement?

First of all, an SLA is defined by ITIL as ‘an agreement between an IT Service Provider and a customer describing the IT Service, the service level targets and the responsibility of the IT provider and the customer”. In addition, the SLA usually also specifies penalties that apply when the IT provider doesn’t meet the agreed service targets.

Pros and cons of SLA’s

The good thing about SLA’s is that the service targets can be agreed upon upfront and can be measured, meaning that the IT provider can report if service targets have been met or not. It is also possible to make clear contractual agreements on payment and penalties based on these quantifiable service targets.

The bad thing about SLA’s is that when an IT supplier meets all the service targets, this doesn’t necessary mean that the customer is happy with the IT services. For example, the agreed availability percentage of an application of 99,5% can be met, but when the downtime occurred in a very critical period, the customer can still be unhappy. When that’s the case the SLA report is not very helpful in having this discussion. Secondly, a contract including penalties is not a strong base for a trusted partnership with your IT supplier either.

Thus, green smileys on the SLA’s dashboard don’t guarantee happy customers. Luckily, there is a new trend being eXperience Level Agreements (XLA’s), replacing the traditional SLA.

What is an eXperience Level Agreement?

An eXperience Level Agreement is in fact a Service Level Agreement, but with two additions:

  • SLA’s focus on the Quality of Serviceby measuring hard data on the services delivered, like the uptime % of a service or the number of high prio incidents that occurred. XLA’s, however, also focus on the Quality of Experience by measuring soft data like how satisfied is the customer with the IT service or the process of obtaining the service as well.
  • XLA’s can contain a form of penalties in the form of vouchers or paybacks in case service targets aren’t met. However, they also contain closed loop feedback cycles, which means that when customers are not happy with the service, their complaints are being dealt with and fixed to make sure that the customers eventually will be happy.

XLA’s are thus defined as a special type of SLA designed to establish a common understanding of the quality levels that the customer will experience through the use of the service, in terms that are clearly understandable to the customer.

Is your organization already using XLA’s? Do you think they are an improvement to the standard practice of SLA’s?

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