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May 15, 2018 | IN Service Level Agreements | BY Reza Koranki
How to Shine a Light on Hidden SLA Overspends

The most dangerous part of any endeavor is what is hidden; the area of truth that is the “unknown, unknowns;” as Donald Rumsfeld said, the “things we don’t know we don’t know.” For many organizations, those “unknown, unknowns” amount to significant SLA overspends on network infrastructure maintenance. However, what is even more surprising is the number of organizations that fail to investigate their “unknown, unknowns;” instead, turning a blind eye to what could be a significant risk, both to their budgets and to their networks.

No one person, within your organization can be expected to fully understand the ins and outs of OEM and independent service level agreements (SLAs). In fact, even if there were a small team dedicated to this purpose, it would be difficult or even impossible to recognize some of the under coverage and overspending produces by inefficient SLAs.

There are two parts to any failure: there is the event itself, with all its attendant disappointment, confusion, and shame, and then there is our reaction to it. It is this second part that we control. – Ed Catmull

Should SLA Evaluation Be An Internal Job?

There is no shame in being in the dark; the problem comes when we refuse to look for the light switch. Recognizing the many ways that inefficiencies in network maintenance support can manifest as risk within an organization requires experience. It also demands a particular knowledge base, one that understands the intricacies of complex networks, the support included in the purchase of network equipment, and the contracts produced by OEMs and independent maintenance providers that cover these networks.

Experts in this area spend many years evaluating network support in a variety of environments. As a result, patterns of overspending, under coverage, and other inefficiencies are much easier to recognize. It is nearly impossible for a single individual or even a team within an organization to identify these types of inefficiencies on their own.

perfect-sla

Both the organization and the service provider treat the service agreement as the single source of truth; this limits their understanding of what is possible in an efficient and customized network support agreement. Experts outside of this relationship call on their own experience and knowledge to evaluate this “truth” and determine if it is the best fit for the organization.

When SLA overspends or under coverage is evidenced (and it likely will be), there is no one person or team within the business that deserves the blame – these inefficiencies are inherent in the way the market was built. A better use of resources is to develop a holistic effort to root out support and maintenance inefficiencies wherever they may be hidden within the business.

It’s not what you don’t know that kills you; it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true. – Mark Twain

Can My Asset Management Tools Evaluate Our SLAs?

Even companies that have invested in asset management software cannot rely on this information as the sole source of truth. Asset management software is meant to accelerate some aspects of the job but not to replace the analytical assessment of coverage and equipment.

Some OEMs may even include asset tracking software with network equipment purchases. However, it is important to note that this software can only look in the areas in which it is permitted to search. It also does not account for equipment that is disconnected from that portion of the network (physically or logically), yet still covered under an SLA, and is, therefore, contributing to overspending.

Inefficiencies, overspends, and inadequate coverage patterns are propagated throughout an organization when leaders within the company refuse to question the status quo. Instead of allowing resources to access the tools needed to make informed decisions, these leaders pressure their teams to sign agreement renewals to ensure OpEx budgets are delivered and secured.

The first step to eliminating overspending on SLAs is to begin to understand the “unknown, unknowns;” to identify areas of potential overspend and areas of the network that may have inadequate coverage. Armed with this information, your business can decide if it is worth the investment of time and resources to pursue additional analysis. To identify the “unknown, unknowns” work with an experienced and knowledgeable service level agreement expert that can evaluate your unique service needs.

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