What was the case? The tender didn’t explicitly state that C2000 was supposed to work indoors, so suppliers of the communication equipment didn’t offer that feature. Which was regarded later as ‘extra’ rather than ‘essential.’ When margins are thin and competition is high, a supplier won’t be eager to invest in an extra feature the customer didn’t specify. Makes sense right? Now try explaining that to a public safety professional who is confronted with that issue on street level.
Overpromise, under deliver
So we’ve concluded that these service-delivery paradoxes happen more often than one may think. It’s a classic situation of sales gone wrong. Either by writing tenders so specific, that a competitor even risks losing a bid when he doesn’t meet requirements exactly. Or by overpromising but under delivering in the sales process. Wooing ill-informed or unknowing customers to buy products or solutions. Luring in prospects with the promise of saving a lot of operational costs, getting a quick return on investment and more efficient operations. After the deal is closed, sales moves on while the service delivery manager can start managing this operational nightmare.
Some suppliers even make money by selling low priced and thus attractive but tightknit contracts for a very basic level of (IT) service, wherein prices fly to the moon if anything happens that cannot be solved by first line support. Reversed gamblers fallacy, I’d say. But are you willing to place your bet on a contract like this?
What’s (not) in the contract?
I personally don’t believe in these kind of SLA’s. They entirely lack service, to begin with. These ‘level agreements’ mainly uphold nasty discussions between clients and suppliers about ‘what is or is not in the contract.’ The first expecting the agreed level of service, the latter knowing they can actually never deliver it..
I do believe in experience level agreements (XLA). This new kid on the block is all about measuring user experience and customer satisfaction. Or as Giarte, founders of XLA, put it: “[An]… experience level agreement is a mind set and tool box to rethink enterprise IT. It applies design thinking to combine ‘tech’ and ‘touch’. Abstract drivers of success become tangible and manageable”. I like it!
X stands for extra
Keep in mind: XLA’s don’t replace SLA’s. XLA’s are in addition to SLA’s. So you could say that the X also stands for ‘extra.’ In my first example, the SLA was probably met for the full 100%. In an alternative Excel realm somewhere in India. The XLA, however, would be somewhere in the below zero region. Just like the temperatures in the Netherlands were last week. XLA forces suppliers out of their role of just being a simple, ice-cold supplier who you only distrustfully talk to when your (legacy) IT systems aren’t working. Sometimes even being the same (legacy) systems the organisation used to run themselves, before outsourcing it to an IT management company.