Service level agreement

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A service level agreement ( SLA ; German  service quality agreement ) describes a framework agreement or the interface between the client and the service provider for recurring services .


The aim is to make the control options transparent for the client by precisely describing guaranteed performance characteristics such as the scope of services, response time and speed of processing. An important component here is the service level , which describes the agreed service quality and contains information on the range of services (e.g. time, scope), availability, the provider's response time, etc. A typical example is the operation of servers that run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a failure rate of e.g. B. a maximum of 0.1% per year and a response time of 30 minutes after notification of damage from an external service provider.

In order to objectify the quality of a service, the service is divided into different levels, which are offered by the service provider. These service levels specify the form in which a service can be provided.

History and context

Service level agreements were originally used in the context of outsourcing projects. They later made their way into the field of IT services and are now also used for other services such as building cleaning , maintenance services , financial management , bookkeeping and payroll accounting . In Germany and Switzerland, SLAs have become known through the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

SLAs are an essential part of service level management (SLM). As part of the service level management process, SLAs are constantly being revised and adapted to changing business requirements , current market conditions and new customer requirements.

Definition of terms

The Operational Level Agreement (OLA) must be distinguished from the Service Level Agreement (SLA) . An OLA often serves to support or secure an SLA. Since these agreements are made between departments of the same company, they usually only apply to the service provider internally. An underpinning contract (UC), in turn, is a security contract for an agreed service between the service provider and a service provider working for him. Dependencies exist insofar as guaranteed services are guaranteed by supporting contracts with external resources and are reactively related to one another via escalation mechanisms.

The formal agreement with the exact definition of the technical parameters of an SLA is carried out with the help of Service Level Specification (SLS) or Service Level Objective (SLO).

The service guarantee has a very similar objective, but this is promised to a consumer in a standardized form.

Agreement content

Essential contents of an SLA:

  • purpose
  • Contract partner
  • Reviews
  • Change history
  • Description of services
  • Responsibility service provider
  • Responsibility recipient
  • Availability of the service
  • Standards
  • Job planning / maintenance
  • Service level indicators ( KPI )
  • Measurement period
  • Other definitions
  • External contracts
  • Escalation management
  • Pricing
  • Legal consequences of non-compliance (in particular contractual penalties )
  • Contract term
  • Signatures

The definition of SLAs should follow the SMART principle . The client receives a service fixed in the SLAs (e.g. reaction times of support, restoration of data, etc.) at an agreed price and the contractor guarantees that he will adhere to this agreement.

SLAs are intended on the one hand to create price / performance transparency for customers and partners, on the other hand they offer support in dispute settlement or conflict avoidance by clarifying the critical points during the - possibly joint - elaboration or presentation of the SLA.

Some examples of SLA applications

SLAs are used wherever there is a regulated service relationship between a (service) supplier and a service recipient (customer). Exemplary SLAs are in outsourcing - agreements and shared service centers used. Below are some examples of the areas in which SLAs are used today:

Service level agreements can also be used for a wide range of services in the field of building management (e.g. cleaning and heating supply). For the service level agreement " Maintenance " of real estate , the definition of component qualities using the ERAB method is suitable for determining the measured variables.


  • Avy Ellis, Michael Kauferstein: Service Management - Successful Use of Process-Oriented Service Level Management . Springer, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-540-40585-6 .
  • Thomas G. Berger: Service Level Agreements . VDM, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-1021-2 .
  • Michael Pulverich, Jörg Schietinger (Eds.): Service Levels in Logistics. Control successfully with KPIs and SLAs . Verlag Heinrich Vogel, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-574-26091-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Service Level Agreement
  2. Fredy Haag (ed.), Computerworld-Lexikon: Current technical terms from computer science and telecommunications , 2007, p. 348
  3. Mühlencoert, Th .: contract logistics management. Basics, examples, checklists. Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-8349-3131-3
  4. U. Schönfelder: Determination of the condition of real estate using the ERAB method - Basics for maintenance strategies. Werner Verlag, Dortmund 2012, ISBN 978-3-8041-5253-3 .