by Mia Melanson
Date Published February 25, 2016 - Last Updated December 15, 2016

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to teach the HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA) class many times.  Earlier this month, I taught an HDI-SCA virtual classroom course to 17 participants.  During that class we analyzed a sample Operational Level Agreement (OLA).

I asked the class what they liked about the document that was developed to be an agreement between the first tier support center and engineering regarding specified IT services.  Invariably the students responded with remarks like these: 

  • Clearly defines responsibilities and who’s accountable for what
  • Provides specific, detailed communication and escalation procedures
  • Includes management responsibility for the effective implementation and measurement of the OLA

The reason we spend time studying about OLAs in class is because meeting the targets and commitments documented in our Service Level Agreements (SLA) depend greatly on the strength of our OLAs.  For example, to resolve certain complex incidents, multiple support departments may need to be involved. So, documenting communication procedures, timeframes, and tasks among various support teams will expedite the entire incident management process. Typical areas addressed in an OLA are similar to those of an SLA. The difference is that the OLA is meant to establish guidelines internally within IT departments who ultimately deliver solutions to customers.

If you don’t have OLAs in place currently, it’s important to realize that simply documenting them alone won’t necessarily result in cooperation and compliance. If support groups are not working well together, it will require strong leadership as well as buy-in from all the technicians. The ultimate goal is to quickly restore services to the customer as outlined in SLAs and to work collaboratively and respectfully in doing so as outlined in OLAs.

So the spirit of the OLA is as important as the guidelines set out in the document. Without a passionate focus on best-in-class customer service, a collaborative approach across all of IT in delivering quality service and support, and strong teams with strong leadership, OLAs will not be able to fulfill their purpose.  In other words, it takes dedication and maturity to ensure that the expectations set out in OLAs are met.  And when they are, all stakeholders benefit.

For the past twenty years, Mia Melanson has provided professional and organizational development programs for customer support centers and service desks in entrepreneurial organizations and Fortune 1000 companies. As President of Performance Consulting, Mia provides clients the tools to reinforce skill development as well as industry standards and practices to improve quality. She has written articles and books on coaching, communication, stress management, and customer service skills. Mia is an HDI Faculty member and an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University School of Business.

Tag(s): technical support, SLA, service level agreement, OLA, operational level agreement - OLA, supportworld, support center


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