It’s A Good Idea To Have A Service Level Agreement. Here’s Why…

When engaging a software development services provider, there are many aspects you should consider before signing on the dotted line - to avoid headaches down the track. One such aspect that you really should lockdown is a Service Level Agreement.

Today we take a look at this quality control agreement, what’s involved, and why it’s a must-have for your next software project.

What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

A Service Level Agreement is a document that outlines what your software development provider will do in terms of service - funnily enough.

You may have seen these terms when signing up with your business ISP - what you expect in terms of network uptime, speeds, and customer service availability. There may be certain provisions included so that if your service provider breaks these terms you will be compensated in some way.

An SLA for software development is similar and yet different to the Service Level Agreement you sign with your business ISP.

What does an SLA for software development cover?

There are various things that a software development SLA may cover.

Client support provisions

One item will be the support hours, response times, and means of support communications available to the customer. You may have a few different options to choose from.

Development processes as they pertain to the client

Your software development service provider will follow certain patterns with their development flow. These include items such as regular scheduled meetings.

A popular software development methodology that works especially well for outsourced development is Agile. Agile is a specific set of processes that developers follow to attain quality software, while still being flexible when unexpected twists pop up, or new features are requested.

Your SLA may outline the process that your provider follows with Agile development, such as Sprints (wherein small blocks of work are completed over a 1-2 week period), client deliverables, go live dates, etc.

You can view an example of a software development Service Level Agreement here.

Why is a Service Level Agreement important for you, as a client?

An SLA helps you to be able to track and do work more smoothly with your software development services provider. You will quickly become aware if the agreed to terms are slipping, and can cite the document as your contractual agreement.

SLAs may or may not be legally binding, depending on your region, the terms of your contract, and whether it’s signed off by a third party.

Having an SLA in place is paramount to knowing what your software partner will actually provide across the course of your project together. It simply means you know what to expect from your provider. Diving into work without an SLA can be a trying agreement.

The dangers of not having an SLA

If you don’t have a Service Level Agreement in place in contractual form, then you might find working with your software partner is difficult, or even starts off great, but then becomes worse as time goes on.

Agreeing to arrangements ad hoc, such as agreeing over the phone to hours of availability has no concrete reference for evidence. When you have such an agreement on paper, you have a leg to stand on if you aim to call them out, or even, if things get really bad, take them to court for non-provision of agreed to services.

Operating without an SLA is like going on an overseas holiday to a semi-dangerous country without taking out travel insurance. It’s not advisable and a gamble with your health - but in this case, a gamble with the health of your project.

How can I help draw up an SLA?

Any software services provider worth their salt will have a template SLA that they use when engaging in new contracts. While this is a starting point, you might also want input into the document, or to include extra risk management terms.

Learning what’s involved in management of software projects, what to expect along the way, and what software service providers are capable of is a good start. Diving into a project without knowing how it is usually handled leaves you open to mismanagement, alongside potential schedule and cost blow outs. Armed with this knowledge, you can add input to the software provider’s offered SLA.

Getting an expert to look over the SLA before you approve it is another good approach to take. There are lawyers that you can seek out to help go over the terms of your SLA specifically - those with deep knowledge of software contracts. They can help both explain the SLA in layman’s terms, as well as point out any areas you might want to beef up, or extra terms to consider. While this may seem like an unnecessary extra cost, it can pay to be careful.

So, is an Service Level Agreement a good idea?

When you’re working on a software project with contracted service providers, then an SLA is a good way to help you know what you’re getting in advance - rather than taking “word is bond” risks.

If you aren’t familiar with SLAs for software, or what they should entail, then it’s either time to start reading, or seek out the services of someone who can fill you in. The extra cost might just save you in the long run!

If you are looking for a reliable software partner to join you on a new or existing project to help turn your ideas into reality, then it’s time to consider CodeFirst. We offer all our clients an SLA so that we can do better business together - and so that you know just what you can expect from us. Drop us an email to find out more.