Operational Level Agreement (OLA): The SLA’s Kick-Ass Sidekick

Operational Level Agreement

Let’s face it.

Delivering stellar services to customers and clients can be tough.

And with villains such as poor communication, stress, and human error constantly rearing their ugly heads, it makes that job even harder.

In fact, a study by Quantum Workplace found that more than 80% of people thought miscommunication happened very frequently, frequently, or occasionally in the workplace, while Identity Guard uncovered that the average American employee makes 118 mistakes per year.

So that mistakes are quashed, miscommunication is thwarted, and that everyone is on the same page so the objectives, targets, and goals defined in your service level agreements (SLA) can be upheld, an OLA is the answer.

An OLA is to the SLA what Robin is to Batman. Superboy to Superman. Chewbacca to Han Solo. And by reading through the following sections in this Process Street article, you’ll discover why an OLA makes for a kickass side-kick:

Now, don your cape and let’s fly through this post! ⚡️

What is an operational level agreement (OLA)?

What is an operational level agreement
(Source)

An operational level agreement (OLA) is a document that explicitly states the roles, responsibilities, actions, processes, and policies involved so that a particular SLA can be fulfilled by the service provider.

Simply put, an OLA tells the service provider’s internal teams what to do, how to do it, and when – plus, what should be done in the cases of irregularity or emergency.

If you’re thinking that an OLA sounds similar to an SLA, you’re completely right. However, the content of an OLA does still differ from what’s inside an SLA, despite there being a large overlap. To see what goes inside an SLA, check out the template below.

Now, an OLA is incredibly handy for those making use of SLAs. It can even be argued that it’s nigh on impossible to facilitate and fulfill SLAs properly without having and using an OLA.

Why?

  • You’re tracking internal service commitments. 🤝
  • This is one of the most important benefits an OLA brings: The ability to track internal service commitments, targets, and objectives. No matter what you’re providing a customer or client with, there are multiple internal teams involved to uphold and achieve what’s written in the SLA – from the customer support or success team to the IT team. In an OLA, what’s expected from each team is clearly written in detail. It can then be tracked so you can see if your teams are hitting those commitments and objectives – or if they’re falling short.

  • You’re documenting exactly what needs to happen. 📑
  • Documentation – in all avenues of business – is nothing but a positive. In this instance, documenting what needs to be done behind the scenes provides an all-encompassing guide for what to do. No more employees second-guessing what actions to take. No more miscommunication from one team member to another. No more uncertainty. With an OLA, your organization can uphold your agreements like pros – and stop customers and clients from partnering with rival service providers.

  • You’re providing your teams with a document to refer to. 👀
  • There’s nothing worse than having to ask an already-busy colleague or team manager easy-to-answer agreement-related questions. But without having the appropriate documents or information to refer to, those questions need to be asked. That’s why, with an OLA, all members of your internal teams can refer back to the document, so should they forget or become confused about a certain detail, they’ll be able to get their answer instantly.

  • You’re keeping stress and anxiety at bay with an OLA. 😰
  • According to Everest College, 83% of employees in the U.S. are stressed at work. Unfortunately, this isn’t a particularly shocking statistic considering how hectic the modern workplace can be. But by providing an OLA for each SLA, you can help reduce high levels of stress and anxiousness. Specifically, having a referable document that employees can look at again and again – all while knowing what they need to do and the goals that need to be hit – helps to stop worry from manifesting into something more villainous.

Considering those benefits, you now know I wasn’t joking when I professed operational level agreements to be kick-ass sidekicks to service level agreements.

But what, exactly, are the differences between the two? Where does an SLA end and an OLA begin?

What’s the difference?: OLA vs SLA

OLA vs SLA
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As Adam Henshall quite rightly put it in What is an SLA? How to Use Service-Level Agreements for Success:

“An SLA, or service-level agreement, is a document created together by two or more parties to specify services that a provider will deliver to a customer.

It’s a specific kind of contract which determines the scope of work and aims to keep performance levels to an agreed standard.”Adam Henshall, What is an SLA? How to Use Service-Level Agreements for Success

What’s important here is the line “to specify services that a provider will deliver to a customer“.

Why?

Because a service level agreement focuses on what the service provider will provide a customer or client with. Of course, this will differ wildly depending on the kind of services the service provider in question can actually supply.

For instance, it could be something like an uptime guarantee (SLAs and OLAs are widely used in the IT and tech sectors), or the complete outsourcing of customer services, where the service provider agrees to quickly respond to customer calls, tickets, and messages for their client.

Meanwhile, an operating level agreement is all about what’s happening on the inside. While an OLA document still states what the service provider is providing to the customer or client, it focuses more on what all the internal teams need to do to uphold the SLA.

That’s the two definitions covered.

Next up: OLA example templates!

Operational level agreement examples (templates)

Operational level agreement examples
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It’s all well and good explaining what operational level agreements are via the written word. However, to get a complete idea, you need to see what they look like and the structure they take.

That’s why, in this section, there are three OLA example templates.

What’s the hold-up?

It’s time to dive in!

Operational level agreement example template #1: Noja

Noja Consulting Limited created this handy operational level agreement template for Microsoft Word. Meaning you can do more than just look at it and garner what, exactly, is inside an OLA and how the information is displayed – you can also edit the template to your own needs!

On page 1 there’s a list with the title “How to use this section”. Follow the instructions provided and you’ll be able to change the document to however you see fit – if you want to use this template, that is.

Operational level agreement example template #2: HDI

Next up is another editable operational level agreement template, but this time from the team at HDI.

As I said earlier, SLAs and OLAs are often used in the IT and tech sectors, and this template definitely caters to that market. If your organization is working in the IT and tech industries, then this template might be the one for you. (Note: The file is an instant download.)

Even if your organization isn’t a part of the IT or tech world, downloading the .docx file and looking through it will give you some real OLA-orientated food for thought. Especially as, at 13 pages long (and that’s without filling certain sections and tables in!), this OLA template leaves no stone unturned.

Operational level agreement example template #3: IT Process Maps

For those fully-immersed in the IT and tech industries, check out this page written by the team at IT Process Maps.

The page shows you a complete and thorough structure for operational level agreements. You can then use this structure as a template for making and filling out your OLAs.

While it may look slightly intimidating for OLA newbies, it’s still definitely worth checking out – especially as you can see what form your OLAs could take in the future.

Phew.

That’s three OLA example templates covered in detail.

Hopefully they’ve provided you with some insight regarding what to do for your OLAs, or even your own OLA template.

Important tips for creating and writing OLAs

Writing OLAs
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After looking at the example templates, I’m sure you’re raring to get creating and writing OLAs.

But before you dive in, I’ve got a few tips and tricks for you.

Whether you’re creating a one-off OLA or constructing your own OLA template so all future OLA documents can be made at super speed, the following advice has you and your organization covered.

  • Ensure you outline the purpose of the OLA at the start. ✍️
  • Similar to SLAs, OLAs need to have one or two short paragraphs detailing the purpose of the document at the very start. It needn’t go into too much detail – it’s preferable to keep the paragraph(s) short and sweet. All it needs to do is briefly inform the reader of the objectives, targets, and goals of the OLA.

  • Always include service and compliance targets. 🎯
  • Although you’ve briefly described the objectives, targets, and goals in the introduction, you’ll want to completely dedicate a later section where you discuss and define the service and compliance targets in detail. Alternatively, you could choose to define targets as milestones and then list the actions involved to facilitate those milestones. Whatever option you go for, make sure the information provided here is thorough.

  • Remember to define who’s involved. 👥
  • It may sound obvious, but defining who’s involved is a crucial step of any OLA. That’s because the internal teams and individuals involved could change depending on the services being provided to the customer or client. So that everybody’s on the same page, make sure to state who’s involved in each OLA.

  • Make sure the preferred means of communication are noted. 🗣
  • There’s a myriad of ways for different teams to communicate with each other – in person, securely through Telegram, via email… the list is endless. However, for effectively and efficiently achieving objectives, targets, and goals, there’ll be preferred modes of contact. Note these down so your internal teams can communicate with each other the right way.

  • Store the signed OLA in a safe, accessible place. 📂
  • So the completed and signed OLA can be referred back to by others, it’s paramount to store the OLA in a secure and accessible place. There’s no use it being stored in a folder on your desktop – nobody can get to it that way! Instead, think of – and then use – an accessible location where colleagues can access the OLA document quickly.

Now, keeping these tips and tricks in mind will undoubtedly help you when creating and writing OLAs.

But the tips don’t end there.

In fact, I’ve saved the best till last: Use Process Street – state-of-the-art BPM software!

How Process Street can help you with all things OLA!

Process Street is superpowered checklists.

As you document workflows, business processes, and integral procedures as templates, you can then launch an infinite number of checklists from those templates. The checklists will help you reduce human error and mistakes, all while helping you to do your best work – quickly.

For a visual explainer, check out the video below.

Now, this may be the point where you’re wondering “How can I use Process Street for creating OLAs?”

With Process Street, you can use our ready-made, ready-to-go SLA template process for not only your SLAs, but also your OLAs, too.

Why?

Because the majority of what you need is already there. All that’s required from you is a few minutes of your time to turn it from an SLA-generating machine into an OLA-generating machine!

Click here to get the Service Level Agreement Template Process.

After signing up for free, add two SLA templates to your dashboard, then rename one to “Operational Level Agreement Template Process”.

When in the template editor, you can edit any mentionings of SLA and swap that to OLA. To boot, add and remove any relevant tasks, form fields, and text so that it fully resembles an OLA, rather than an SLA. (Remember to use the template examples I mentioned earlier if you need a helping hand.)

Once that’s finished, the magic truly begins. ✨

Each time you launch a checklist from the new OLA template, it’ll guide you through the process of making a fresh, professional OLA. This means whenever you need a new OLA to use alongside an SLA, just launch a new checklist from your swanky new OLA process template!

Thanks to Process Street’s nifty variables feature, the information put in form fields is automatically used to create an OLA draft for you. This makes creating and writing OLAs incredibly easy – and faster than doing it all inside a Microsoft Word doc.

Do remember to keep a close eye on any form fields you change, as that’ll change the variables, too.

To see how variables work in action, check out the video below.

While on the topic of our nifty features, there are many, many more features to help you get more done, including:

For an in-depth look at some of these features, watch the following super-informative webinar.

You don’t have to use these features just in your OLA template process – you can use them in any high value process you want.

So, if you’re using Process Street to manage the processes for fulfilling OLAs and SLAs – like the IT support process, for instance – you can ensure OLA and SLA targets, objectives, and goals are all properly met due to the stellar combination of handy checklists and incredible workflow features!

Here’s to creating – and then fulfilling – operational level agreements properly with Process Street’s awesome checklist app.

Does your organization make use of operational level agreements? If so, do you have any tips, tricks, or additional insight you’d like to share with the Process Street community? Share them via the comment section below! 💡

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Thom James Carter

Thom is a junior content writer at Process Street. He has previously worked in copywriting and content creation for multiple start-ups and SMBs. He’s interested in technology, culture, homebrewing, and hiking up the hills and mountains near his home in Edinburgh, Scotland.


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