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What is OLA?

In today’s technology-driven marketplace, delivering superior IT service management is a requirement to remain relevant. As such, organizations must monitor key infrastructure performance indicators and business services defined under Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) and Underpinning Contracts (UCs). 
An operational level agreement (OLA) is a contract that defines how various IT groups within a company plan to deliver a service or set of services. OLAs are designed to address and solve the problem of IT silos by setting forth a specific set of criteria and defining the specific set of IT services that each department is responsible for. It should be noted that the term Service Level Agreement (SLA) is used in many companies when discussing agreements between two internal groups, but according to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework for best practices, this type of internal contract should be called an Operational Level Agreement. 

Basic Components of an OLA

At the most basic level, the OLA functions as a document that serves as a matter of record between parties:
General Overview
  1. The General Overview does three important things. It:
  2. Reaffirms the purpose of the agreement between parties
  3. Outlines the goal of the agreement
  4. Highlights objectives of the document
  5. Parties Responsible
  6. This section lists all the stakeholders involved and will include their name, title and role.

Service and Charges
  1. This part of the document contains:
  2. The agreed upon Scope of Work (SOW);
  3. Customer Requirements
  4. General Service Terms
  5. Service Hours and Operational Hours
  6. Service Provider Roles and Responsibilities
  7. This identifies every internal or external service provider involved and describes their responsibilities, in great detail.

Hours of Coverage, Response Times and Escalations
Here, operating hours are covered in depth, as well as escalation policies. This section covers a few main topics:
  1. Work Requests
  2. Service Requests
  3. Incident Management
  4. Problem Management
  5. Service Maintenance / Change Management
  6. Service Exceptions
  7. Reporting, Reviewing and Auditing

This section pertains to the term of the OLA and offers a schedule or timeline for audits, reviews and reporting.
OLA(s) are not a substitute for an SLA. The purpose of the OLA is to help ensure that the underpinning activities that are performed by a number of support team components are clearly aligned to provide the intended SLA.
If the underpinning OLA(s) are not in place, it is often very difficult for organisations to go back and engineer agreements between the support teams to deliver the SLA. OLA(s) have to be seen as the foundation of good practice and common agreement.

Best Practices for Structuring an OLA

If you are responsible for creating an OLA here are some things to consider:
  • Be sure to outline the purpose of the document in one to two paragraphs.
  • List all parties (people and entities) involved in service management and the fulfillment of SLAs.
  • An agreement must include a compliance target and at least one service target. Optionally, an agreement can include one or more milestones with one or more actions associated with each milestone.
  • Include detailed information regarding present challenges and how the OLA will serve to resolve them.
  • Outline the method(s) of communication that parties must adhere to throughout the OLA term.
  • Fully describe service operations, including hours of operation and service hours.
  • Include terms and conditions.
  • Indicate the authority of each signer to the document.
  • Attach appendices as needed with additional information.

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