OLA Vs SLA: Definitions, Differences And How To Write Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are an information technology or software provider, you may use different contractual agreements to outline your services and align expectations with your customers and internal teams. Service-level agreements and operational-level agreements are common within these types of relationships. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two contracts can help you more accurately create them. In this article, we define and compare OLA vs SLA, discuss the differences and similarities between them and provide steps to help you write each.

Comparison Of OLA Vs SLA

When comparing OLA vs SLA, it's helpful to first review the definition of each of these acronyms. A service-level agreement (SLA) is a document that describes the requirements for a provided service. An operational-level agreement (OLA) is a more specific agreement that defines interdependent relationships in support of a service-level agreement. Here are some more in-depth differences:

Definition of SLA

Most often, these types of agreements exist in the IT industry for software providers to outline the specifications of their products to their customers. SLAs may exist in other types of industries that include providers of a service and customers who receive a service. SLAs often include information about the capabilities of a software or technology product, features of a service and continued maintenance agreements.

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Definition of OLA

The OLA often describes the responsibilities of each internal individual, team or department involved, including processes, policies, delivery requirements and completion timelines. The IT industry is the most common sector in which OLAs exist. These agreements may also exist in any partnership where one party provides a service to another.

Industry

One similarity between these two types of agreements is the industry in which they exist. While SLAs and OLAs can be useful in any industry that involves a service provider and a receiver, both agreements are most common in the IT and software development sectors. SLAs and OLAs are both important methods of ensuring that software products and services function properly, meet client requirements and receive regular maintenance.

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Sections covered

A notable difference between SLAs and OLAs is the included sections outlined in each agreement. SLAs often include sections that cover the service portion of an agreement, like the accessibility of a software product, functions and features of the software and performance requirements. OLAs focus on internal processes and include sections that outline the individuals, departments and teams responsible for upholding the terms in the SLA.

Negotiation

Another important difference between SLAs and OLAs is the opportunity to negotiate. Usually, negotiations are possible between clients or customers and their service providers when creating the terms of an SLA. As OLAs focus on the internal individuals, teams and departments responsible for maintaining the requirements of an SLA, negotiations are not typically a part of creating an OLA document.

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Involved parties

Another difference between SLAs and OLAs is the parties involved in the agreements. SLAs are agreements between providers of a software product or service and their customers. Service providers use OLAs for internal processes and rarely involve clients and customers when establishing the terms of an OLA.

How To Write An SLA

Consider the following steps to learn how to write an SLA:

1. Include a brief introduction

The first step in writing an SLA is to include a brief introduction. In two to three sentences, you may state the purpose of the service-level agreement. Introductions often include the date of completion and the date of signing along with a brief index of the contents of the SLA. You may also include a summary of pricing in your introduction.

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2. Declare the parties involved

Next, you include a section that declares the individuals, teams and departments involved in the agreement. This section may include declarations from each party involved and describe their roles and responsibilities in the agreement. For example, if a software development corporation provides software as a service, you may include declarations from the software product team, the support teams and other relevant departments of the corporation.

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3. Define terms

After that, you may include sections that describe the technical requirements for the product or service and define the definitions for each term. For example, these sections can include functional requirements and limitations, software products that are covered in the agreement, delivery schedules, revisions to product specifications and payment options. This may also include technical requirements that may exclude discriminatory types of software products or services.

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4. Outline services

The next step is to include a section that details the services that the provider plans to offer, including important sections such as the requirements for access and maintenance of the service. These sections describe what is required from both parties to provide the desired level of performance and accessibility between one another. For example, an SLA between a software development company and its customer may mention the time allotted for maintenance each month or how often patches or updates are available on each party's website.

5. Estimate delivery dates

Next, you may include sections that estimate how long it may take to complete specific tasks within a required deadline. These terms may simply describe how much time a task takes to complete or estimate the completion time for various stages of the service-providing process. This section may also briefly explain the reasons which can cause delays and how long they might prevail.

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6. End with an acknowledgement

At the end of your SLA, you may include a section describing the legal ramifications of the agreement. This may include a brief acknowledgement that each party approves the terms of the SLA and if they are to revisit any points of agreement in the future. All parties typically sign the contract after mutual agreement.

If an existing agreement or licence is relevant to or incorporated into this service-level agreement, include a reference to it within your document for later referencing. You can also include an acknowledgement that this document is consistent with or included within an existing agreement or licence.

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How To Write An OLA

Consider the following steps to learn how to write an OLA:

1. Outline the purpose of the agreement

Similar to an SLA, the first step in creating an effective OLA is to outline the purpose of the agreement in a brief introduction. OLAs are useful for internal teams to understand their roles and responsibilities when providing a service. When outlining your OLA's purpose, consider including the verbiage that conveys the usefulness of your document in aligning team and department expectations and holding departments accountable for their deliverables.

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2. Indicate involved parties

The next step in writing an OLA is to include a list of the interested parties. This can include sections for each role or department that uphold the terms of the OLA. This may also include any subcontractors that may get involved. If your organisation uses a matrix structure, you may also include dimensions like business units, departments and functions.

3. Describe the length of the agreement

After that, you can outline the length of the agreement. Call-out paragraphs are useful in outlining the duration of an OLA, such as the start and end dates of the agreement and the length of the agreement. This may also include the conditions under which any party may terminate an OLA.

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4. Summarise responsibilities

In the last section of your OLA, you can include a segment that describes the responsibilities of each party within the agreement. Include your team or department's role in the processes of producing specific deliverables using terms such as provide, ensure and verify. These sections may give a brief description of how each party is accountable for their own responsibilities when providing service-level agreements.

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