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We need SLAs. Should we start with Service Level Requirements

By ITIL® from Experience©

A common approach when starting with SLAs is to start by identifying the Service Level Requirements. ITIL® v3 emphasizes this approach: “For new services, the requirements must be ascertained at the start of the development process, not after completion.”1 Let’s be clear about the Service Level Requirements. They are appropriate for:

  • a brand new organization that is trying to understand which service(s) to offer;
  • a new service (ITIL® v3 clearly mentions this point);
  • bringing a new Customer on board;
  • a mature Service Level Management process that wants to better align a particular service to the business needs.


If services are already offered and there are no SLAs, starting with Service Level Requirements is asking for trouble. Here’s why:

  1. A meeting is scheduled with a Customer to talk about service level requirements
  2. At the meeting you ask: “What requirements do you have for our services?”
  3. The Customer replies: “The requirement is to deliver on your commitments!”

Talking about new offerings or service levels is practically impossible from this point forward.


If services are already in operation, start by documenting what is currently offered. In other words, document the current “as-is” state and create a Service Catalogue. The Service Catalogue should contain the generic Service Levels such as typical response, resolution times, availability, maintenance windows and business service continuity recovery times. In other words the default service level offered to all Customers. If the Service Catalogue contains this information it actually serves as a Corporate SLACorporate SLA: Covers all the generic SLM issues appropriate to every customer throughout the organization. These issues are likely to be less volatile, so updates are less frequently required. Service Design, ITIL® v3, 2011 edition p. 111 .

The next step is to measure how well commitments made in the Service Catalogue are met. The goal is to establish a baseline to confirm that these commitments are realistic and attainable. Measuring current capabilities is not as easy as it sounds and rarely is as simple as “loading” the SLAs in the ITSM tool. The following might be needed:

  • Reviewed Categories if they are used by the tool to select the SLA
  • Modified CMDB structure to avoid loading a multitude of SLAs
  • Confirmed or firmed up business hours since most ITSM tools cannot adjust to calculate the business hours to whenever John or Mary gets to work like in a follow the sun service desk situation
  • Communicate the fact that response and resolution times are measured to the tool’s users. Depending on the organization, management of change activities and briefings might be required to explain the reason for measuring: that it is to establish a baseline to understand current capabilities and that the intent is not for management to discipline and punish.


Once the current state and capabilities are known the Service Catalogue can be adjusted. Now, the Customer can be engaged to discuss requirements by focusing on the exceptions and demands not currently described in the Service Catalogue (i.e. gap).

The approach described above is similar to the practical guidance provided in ITIL® v2 to establish the Service Level Management process. Two sections of the ITIL® v2 Service Delivery book are of interest: 4.3 “Planning the process” and 4.4 “Implementing the process.”
The following are the headings of the section “Implementing the process”:
4.4.1 Produce a Service Catalogue
4.4.2 Expectation Management
4.4.3 Plan the SLA structure
4.4.4 Establish Service Level Requirements and Draft SLA
4.4.5 Wording of SLAs
4.4.6 Seek agreement
4.4.7 Establish monitoring capabilities
4.4.8 Review Underpinning contracts and Operational Level Agreements
4.4.9 Define Reporting and Review Procedures
4.4.10 Publicise the existence of SLAs

As shown above implementing SLAs does not start by establishing Service Level Requirements.


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ITIL Process > Service Level Management (SLM)


1. Source: ITIL® v3, 2007 Section 8.2 Service Level Requirements, p. 209




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