Service Level Management: How to Manage SLAs and OLAs Masterfully

Service Level Management

When defining, documenting, and delivering services to customers, it can be a little difficult (read: incredibly taxing) to keep on top of everything.

As Philipp Unterharnscheidt and Axel Kieninger at the Karlsruhe Service Research Institute both say:

“IT services supporting business operations are an increasingly critical factor for business success today (Guldentops 2003). The management of service quality, which is the central objective of Service Level Management (SLM), however remains a major challenge for many companies.”Philipp Unterharnscheidt and Axel Kieninger, Service Level Management – Challenges and their Relevance from the Customers’ Point of View

To help companies keep on top of things – and manage their services, service levels, and SLAs and OLAs masterfully – there’s service level management.

This may be the point where you’re thinking “But what, exactly, is service level management? What are the benefits of it? The best practices so it’s done properly? And how would Process Street even help with service level management?”

Worry no more, reader. You’ve come to the right place.

Just read through these sections to get to grips with service level management:

Let’s dive straight in. ⬇️

What is service level management (SLM)?

Service level management (often shortened to the acronym SLM) is the broad term for ensuring the services (and therefore service levels) being provided to customers are clearly defined, negotiated, delivered, and reviewed.

Essentially, it’s a collection of business processes that see services and service levels from the beginning (creation and/or definition) to the end (post-delivery reviews). A large part of SLM includes the development of SLAs and OLAs.

As the team at Invensis Learning say:

“The processes under SLM provide a framework upon which the services are defined, the service levels are agreed upon, service level agreements (SLAs) and operational level agreements (OLAs) are developed in order to fulfill the contracts, and the costs of the services which are under development.”Invensis Learning, What is Service Level Management?

In terms of SLM objectives, Invensis Learning also rather helpfully created this list of general activities that occur as part of service level management:

  • “Define, document, agree, monitor, measure, report and review the level of IT services which are being provided.
  • Make sure that the targets which are set are precise and assessable.
  • Monitor the levels of customer satisfaction and improve them.
  • Improve the relationship between the customers and the business and increase the level of communication.
  • Ensure that the expectations of the level of service which will be delivered are clear and unambiguous
  • Make sure that there is a constant improvement in all the service levels even after the targets have been met.”

Invensis Learning, What is Service Level Management?

Now, the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the words “IT” and “IT services” have cropped up several times already. That’s because the IT industry uses SLAs, OLAs, and the like heavily, so a lot of content on this subject caters to the tech crowd. To boot, service level management is a big part of the ITIL Service Delivery area.

If you’re raring to get started with SLM, check out our SLA Management Checklist Template.

The benefits of service level management

No matter if your organization provides IT-related services or not, there are some real benefits of service level management.

These benefits include:

  • Accuracy
  • As a service provider, the last thing you want is for your services or service levels to not hit their marks. After all, if a service level target has been defined, it reflects badly on your organization if they’re not being met. Service level management ensures you’re providing achievable, accurate service level targets as part of SLAs and OLAs. This benefits both you and your clients greatly.

  • Accountability
  • There’s nothing worse than not knowing who needs to do what, when, why, and how. But service level management makes sure that when developing SLAs and OLAs, not only are roles and responsibilities delineated clearly, but that internal and external communication is properly facilitated. Issues with accountability should never arise with SLM.

  • Agility ⚡️
  • Agile methodology is all about keeping flexible so the best possible results are achieved. With service level management, you and your team are keeping agile. You’re continually monitoring and reviewing services being provided, service levels, and SLAs and OLAs. Then, if it looks like an internal or external change will have an impact, your organization can easily adapt and make changes to the SLA or OLA quickly.

  • All-around control
  • As I said at the beginning of the post, managing all-things service-related can be mayhem if the right processes and/or tasks aren’t in place. But by following processes and/or tasks that facilitate SLM activities, your organization will have complete control of their service-related endeavors. Here’s to turning uncertainty and misery into mastery.

There you have it – some stellar benefits your organization could reap with service level management.

When I say “some” that’s because the list above is by no means exhaustive; in fact, it only scratches the surface!

If you’re now wanting to know the best practices for going about SLM properly after learning the positives, read on.

Service level management best practices

I get it.

Tackling service level management can seem a little confusing due to how broad it is.

To help, think of SLM as the thing that encapsulates everything you do related to providing services, service levels, and SLAs and OLAs from beginning to end. As explained in the “What is service level management (SLM?)” section, service level management is all about facilitating the whole process and making it more, well, manageable along the way!

Speaking of which, reading and taking on board these following best practices will help you undergo SLM like a pro:

  1. Assign an SLM manager
  2. Having somebody at the helm of service level management is a terrific shout. Otherwise, SLM duties could easily go missed or forgotten about – especially the activities that happen once SLAs and OLAs have been signed and go into effect. Have someone drive the way forward – it wouldn’t steal too much time away from their regular work duties, either.

  3. Create accessible documentation around SLM
  4. Documentation – in all aspects of business – is critical. And when it comes to service level management, the same principle applies. Simply put, the documentation should include information on how to go about SLM-related activities and tasks properly (tip: use actionable checklists so SLM processes are followed to the T, and human error is kept at bay)! Make sure that documentation is also accessible (and preferably cloud-based), too.

  5. Understand that SLM is a constant process
  6. Service level management isn’t something an organization does once. Neither twice, nor thrice – it’s constant. So before implementing SLM yourself and making it a staple part of your internal processes, understand that SLM is a constant process, and think about how your organization will complete SLM duties again and again – and to high standards.

  7. Remember to review SLAs and OLAs regularly
  8. As a species, we’re fairly forgetful – especially millennials (what day is it, again?) So on top of thinking about all our other duties at work, it can be easy to forget SLM-related review tasks. This is an issue when it comes to reviewing SLAs and OLAs regularly, to make sure service targets are being hit and clients are satisfied with what they’re receiving. That’s why whoever’s assigned to those tasks should be automatically notified when it’s time to conduct reviews. Or, those review tasks should be added to your already-established processes for service targets, SLAs, OLAs, and the like.

Armed with these best practices, you’re sure to go about service level management masterfully.

However, I’ve saved the most useful best practice until last (and before you say it, no, I didn’t forget to mention the final best practice despite me being a millennial – it was on purpose!)

It’s this: Use Process Street – the best BPM software on the market.

Use Process Street for SLM (and creating your OLA and SLA agreements)!

Process Street is superpowered checklists.

When you document workflows, business processes, and integral procedures as templates, you can then launch an infinite number of checklists to help you complete recurring tasks and processes efficiently and effectively.

For a visual explainer, check out the short intro video below.

For all things service level and operational level-related, Process Street is something of a godsend.


Because Process Street ensures you complete those often-complicated, always-important processes to the high standards your organization would want.

And here’s more good news: You don’t have to create processes or build your templates yourself (unless you want to, of course!) We have a plethora of ready-made, ready-to-go checklist templates waiting to be used.

From an SLA creation process to an SLA metrics tracking process, these templates have you covered. In addition to our SLA management checklist template, all these templates have important SLM-related tasks peppered throughout them, ensuring all bases of service level management are covered.

SLA Management Checklist Template

Click here to get the SLA Management Checklist Template.

Service Level Agreement Template Process

Click here to get the Service Level Agreement Template Process.

SLA Metrics Tracking Process Template

Click here to get the SLA Metrics Tracking Process Template.

Plus, there are SLA management templates for a range of different sectors:

Now, what transforms all these checklist templates into superpowered checklists are the workflow features that have been included.

These include:

With such workflow features, there’s no reason why checklists have to be run-of-the-mill checklists. They can be bettered, bolstered, and brilliant.

For more info on some of these features, watch the webinar below.

I can’t wait to see you use these workflow features and checklist templates for creating SLAs and OLAs, and then managing them masterfully. Just sign up for a free trial of our nifty business software to get started.

As somebody who’s interested in service level management, SLAs, and the like, are there any other relevant checklist templates you’d like us to create? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comment section below.

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Thom James Carter

Thom is one of Process Street’s content writers. He’s also contributed tech-related writing to The New Statesman, Insider, Atlassian, G2, The Content Marketing Institute, and more. Follow him on Twitter @thomjamescarter.

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