This article was published in CAUSE/EFFECT journal, Volume 21 Number 3 1998. The copyright is shared by EDUCAUSE and the author. See for additional copyright information.

Readers Respond

Have you developed or are you in the process of developing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the customers/departments that your IT organization supports at your institution? If so, briefly describe your experience and provide the URLs for the SLAs or related documents that are sharable on your Web site.

Duke University has two central IT groups--the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Medical Center Information Systems (MCIS). We have been working very closely over the past few years, particularly in the area of support. The two main help desks use common tools for call tracking, workflow automation and problem resolution, in effect creating a "virtual help desk."

As mission-critical client/server applications are rolled out--SAP, PeopleSoft and internally written applications--it is critical to have institutional SLAs for institutional applications. The SLA sets expectations for the customer (internal or external) on response times, accountability, escalations (what happens if agreed-upon timeframes and responses are not met), hours of operation, etc. Once these processes are reengineered and agreed upon, they can be relatively easily automated. As an example, before the first SLA was automated, it could take as many as seventeen steps for the help desk (worst case scenario) to give the customer a response. Now it takes just two steps on the part of the help desk.

Critical success factors:

Check out and click on the "about DUNK" section for more details. Also see

Philip Verghis
Manager, Technical Support
Office of Information Technology
[email protected]

At California Lutheran University, we were concerned about managing expectations in terms of what levels of service we could offer and support as opposed to the levels that our clients may expect, want, or need. We developed a draft for our help desk service level agreement and then presented it to our campus-wide technology committee for feedback. Living with the response time seems to be our biggest problem with implementing the SLA. We have been cautious about implementing the SLA due to our current staffing levels. We are not certain that we will be able to respond in the time periods listed.

For a look at the current draft, point to:

Julius Bianchi
Associate Director of Information Services
[email protected]

Information Services at Purdue University North Central began developing service level agreements (SLAs) in January, 1997. Our goal is to have a document covering every core area of support we provide the university community. The first two we drafted were "technical support" and "help desk" SLAs. Our initial intent was to clarify:

We sent our first two documents to several individuals, who were representative of the different constituencies of the university community, to review and provide feedback prior to our publication. Of note, most commented on the titles of the documents suggesting we change the name because our documents appeared to focus on what we would do and our constituents had not "agreed" to our documents.

With this feedback we began our search for a more appropriate title. Shortly after we published the first two we abandoned "service level agreements" in favor of "terms of service". This change has more appeal to our constituency.

We now have three terms of service (TOS) documents online. The third TOS focuses on multi-discipline academic computing lab support (see

We are working on the following TOS:

G. M. Kozak
Director, Information Services
[email protected]

It has been challenging to develop support guidelines for all the various customers at Portland Community College. The college has a very decentralized organization, and there are few institutional standards. Those that exist are usually guidelines, not hard standards. Last year we developed lists of supported technology within several levels. The levels were based on the impact on a department, a campus, or the entire college. In other words, we tried to communicate what we are able to support, the priorities for attention, and why. This approach was only partially successful. Even though we obtained buy-in from several key technology committees, there was an outcry from faculty and staff who use computers or software that we don�t support or for which we provide a low level of support.

To improve the situation for us and for our customers, we are working on a Service Level Agreement. It is currently in draft form and is being reviewed by some of the key stakeholders. It consists of a set of Web documents that address what is supported and priorities, response times, training opportunities, how to get help, Help Desk hours and processes, and the responsibilities of end users. It primarily explains the level of services provided by the Information Technology Services (ITS) department, but it also requires that faculty and staff practice sensible computing and adhere to a few standards in order to receive the services. There are also links to other intranet resources, such as college standards, guidelines, and planning documents.

Following discussions with key administrators and support staff, we may utilize the Recommended Solutions process from UC Davis to obtain a wider discussion of the document. This process can be seen at When the SLA is finalized later this year, a copy will be made available at We still have to obtain service level commitments from ITS staff and agreements from our customers. If we are not wholly successful, we will post information about the process and the outcome at this Web site so others can benefit from our experiences.

Ray Grant
Director, Information Technology Services
[email protected]

The service agreement that affects the most people at the University of British Columbia is for the ISP service. The URL for this is

We also have a more detailed SLA for the administrative departments, which I will send as an attachment upon request.

Dave Amos
Associate Director - Networks
IT Services
[email protected]

At the University of Western Ontario, we have implemented a Service Agreement to support a new service model for our Client Support teams. The Information Technology Services department (ITS) provides help desk support and on-site consultation, troubleshooting and configuration services to a very diverse set of clients using more than 6,000 computers on our campus network.

This new service model was developed to address inconsistencies in service provision to our clients and to help manage a growing demand for desktop support services in an environment where available support resources were, in fact, shrinking.

The specific objectives of the new model were to:

The service model and the corresponding Service Agreement deal with a subset of ITS' overall service offerings and focus on those services most related to desktop support for which ITS charges some fee. There are a set of other support services offered that either address a broader scope of service or are provided at no charge to the client.

The Service Agreement allows a customer to selectively choose the most appropriate service offering from two families of service:

1.System and network access (e.g., file sharing, print sharing, access to current applications, managed network provision, etc.)

2.Consulting and support services (desktop consultation and troubleshooting, network management consultation or hardware repair services).

For a more complete description of the ITS services provided and the scope of the new Service Agreement, please see

Bill Genn
Assistant Director
Information Technology Services
Natural Sciences Centre
[email protected]

Next Readers Respond Question

Has your central IT organization established a partnership with your institution�s Faculty Development/Excellence program to support the development of skills related to using technology in teaching and learning? Please describe briefly your collaborative activities and provide URLs for any related Web sites or documents.

Send your response via e-mail to Elizabeth Harris, CAUSE/EFFECT managing editor, [email protected]. the table of contents

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