Before you start to use a software development company, you may want to consider signing a service level agreement. A service level agreement, which is shortened to SLA, can save you a lot of issues further down the line. The agreement can help you avoid miscommunication or different expectations from both sides involved in the project. Let’s take a deeper look into what an SLA should cover, and the benefits it can offer to your company.
What is an SLA?
A service level agreement will cover everything your provider will offer regarding their service. Details of their service should all be laid out within a single document. When you previously registered your business ISP, you might have received one of these. The SLA should also discuss any compensation you will receive, if these terms of service are not met as promised. When it comes to software, the SLA will protect you when working with a development company.
What does it cover?
There are certain things you should look for when it comes to an SLA. Before agreeing to a contract, you want to ensure that these are covered to avoid issues later. To begin with, ensure you discuss hours when you can reach support and the expected response time. You should also understand what support options are available to you.
The SLA should share information about the development process, such as a meeting schedule or timeline. Information about the development flow which impacts you as the end-user should also be included. Companies that follow the Agile methodology will offer you regular deadlines, where a certain amount of work will be delivered and go live every couple of weeks. Their working process is often explained in an SLA, so you’ll understand exactly how the workflow will look once the project commences. An SLA can help to provide realistic expectations about when you can expect work to be delivered.
What are the benefits?
As a client of a software development company, an SLA can be crucial before beginning a project. Firstly, we find they offer a much smoother and more collaborative process for everyone involved. Clear timelines laid out in the SLA, can help you to monitor delays and avoid issues in the future. It will give you a tool to track the progress of the work, and you’ll have a clearer picture of the upcoming outputs. If you notice the company is falling behind, you will have your SLA to back you up. Not all SLAs are legally binding, consider whether this is something you need before work starts. Legality is often dependent on where your company is based and whether you used a third party.
What if you don’t have an SLA?
To avoid challenges during your time working together, we always recommend signing an SLA before you get started. Many companies who don’t put an SLA in place before starting work find that the company they work with begins by delivering on time, and then the work soon goes downhill as time passes. When you discuss the elements of an SLA without written confirmation, you have no backup if things start to go wrong. So ensure that anything discussed on the phone or in person is also written down.
An SLA offers you the protection you need and is a good document to have in place in case legal action is required. While you may think this seems like a drastic consideration, depending on the size of your company and the money involved in the project, this is certainly a possibility in some situations. An SLA acts as insurance for your company’s money and time. If a company refuses to draw up an SLA with you, this may be a huge red flag, beware.
Who can create an SLA for me?
Now that you understand the benefits of an SLA for your next project, you might be wondering how you can add this to your process. Most service providers should already have a standard template they use. This should be included in the part of the process of creating a contract between the two of you. However, you’ll want to check the template to ensure it covers everything you want.
We recommend you research what’s involved in the project to understand what you should expect to receive throughout your time working together. This can help you to add specific requirements, to the SLA so that it’s written in your favour. Finally, you can consider using a lawyer to check the SLA over before agreeing to anything. They’ll be able to indicate any issues they notice and stop you from signing something to which you may not know you are agreeing.
Where to go from here
Before spending your company’s time and money on a large software development project, we always recommend protecting yourself with a service level agreement. Most companies will happily add this into the contract at the start of the project and will have no issues discussing the terms of the project with you upfront. However, if you find a company that is reluctant to use an SLA, you may want to think twice. An SLA offers both parties protection and backup. As the client, it will also offer you a clearer understanding of the timeline and support you’ll receive during the project.