Why Your Managed Service Provider SLA Must Focus on Business Impact

To managed service providers (MSPs) and their customers, service level agreements (SLAs) provide the structure that outlines responsibilities and sets the expectations of both parties. They define the scope of business services that are to be provided, what the performance of the services should be, how this performance can be measured, and what the response time should be when things go awry.

Basically, managed service provider SLAs ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A well-crafted SLA goes a long way toward ensuring customer satisfaction for an MSP. It minimizes gaps in communication and establishes mutual understanding. It’s a great way for the MSP to show their contribution to the customers’ business success. It provides metrics that can be invaluable when it comes to contract renewals or expanding the footprint at a customer site.

For MSPs, maintaining SLAs distills down to one key question: When there is an issue with the supporting infrastructure, what is the impact to the delivery of a business service?

Underlying infrastructure and component-level SLAs are meaningless unless the impact to business services is understood. In this case, that’s the holy grail.

Complexities of Service Delivery

The key to managing business impact is to manage complexity. In order to deliver services, MSPs manage a complex delivery infrastructure that has dependencies on multiple technology tiers:

  • With cloud now part of the picture, several parties may be involved in the delivery, each with their own individual SLAs. Infrastructure components also have their own performance commitments.
  • With on-demand provisioning and orchestration systems, the picture of what exactly is running on which slice of infrastructure becomes extremely fluid and dynamic.
  • In addition, MSPs need to allocate management tools and put trained personnel and effective processes in place to operate the actual infrastructure. The same infrastructure may also be used to service multiple customers.

Each of these factors contributes to the problem. When there is an infrastructure outage, knowing which business services are affected is no easy matter. Many factors make it difficult to know what is affected when something goes wrong: The multiple tiers of technology; the sprawl and overlap of monitoring and management tools; the siloed nature of the different teams; and the dynamic nature of the underlying provisioning systems.

Understanding Service Impact

There is a huge difference between knowing a particular infrastructure component or function is compromised and knowing which specific end-user services are affected as a result. The principal difference here is the gap between “technology infrastructure monitoring” and what is best described as “business service monitoring”.

While the two concepts are intrinsically tied together, the mindset, goals, activities and outcomes for each are dramatically different. MSPs are often focused on infrastructure operations and management. It’s easy to lose sight of the business service monitoring aspects.

Business service monitoring enables MSPs to prioritize and address issues quickly based on critical business impact. It works by mapping the IT systems and infrastructure to the business services they support. It transcends infrastructure monitoring by providing a clear and holistic view of how services are delivered.

Once this is in place, it becomes possible to determine what the effect to a business service will be when infrastructure problems occur or are predicted.

Differentiation Through Business Service Monitoring

With business service monitoring, remediation activities can be prioritized based on the criticality of impacted business services to ensure the problems most important to the business are addressed quickly.

This directly speaks to the very reason that MSP SLAs are in place in the first place. With a perspective on what the actual impact to a business service is, it becomes possible to proactively manage SLAs, exceed customer expectations and improve CSAT.

The business outcomes for both parties in the MSP-customer transaction are significant. MSPs benefit by knowing which problems to fix in what order to minimize impact to their service delivery capabilities. And, as a result, end-users and customers have improved uptime and minimized service degradation.

SLAs are the key to a happy MSP-customer relationship. Business service monitoring makes for better management of SLAs. MSPs need to focus on this aspect to achieve their end goals.

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