The success of service level agreements for outsourced software application systems
Botha, Cornelius Johannes
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Due to the constantly increasing emphasis on the service component of the total delivery by product and service providers, the levels of services delivered by providers are getting scrutinised with similar growing emphasis. Products are taking a backseat to the service experience, which consumers expect from service providers. Within the software application systems environment products are intangible and, on their own, really only an experience by the users thereof. Software systems providers have to realise that they cannot rely on tangible product features that can cover up for poor service. The software development industry is thus primarily one of service delivery. This paper conveys research conducted on the success of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) within the outsourced software application system environment. The research starts off with a literature study of previous research done in the related fields, i.e. outsourcing, SLAs and the Systems Development environment. The literature study was followed by the development of a model, suggesting the integration of the SLA life cycle with the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). A measurement instrument was subsequently developed to assess the success of SLA integration as part of the SDLC. Research data was gathered by means of the developed measurement instrument (questionnaire) and input from 24 experts in the field of outsourced software application systems development was obtained. The 24 experts represented 18 different organisations. On completion of the analysis of the survey data, certain interpretations were made which led to the following conclusions: o The survey had shown that in the majority of the organisations investigated, SLAs are not taken into consideration when the systems development process is initiated. o Experts agreed with the importance of integrating the SLA and Systems Development life cycles. o Participating individuals supported all the benefits of SLAs, i.e. improving service levels, increasing revenue and enhancing relationships. To conclude the study, a number of recommendations were made, which will contribute towards enhanced application of SLAs within the outsourced software application systems paradigm. These recommendations include: o Creation of greater SLA awareness in the software development community; o Software development organisations should take initiative for addressing SLA requirements from the beginning of the development process; and o Development methodologies should be extended to formalise the integration of SLAs into the SDLC.
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