This morning Mavis whispered three little words in my ear - service-level agreements. She says that we need to provide them to prospective external customers. "That's OK," I assured her. "We have a standard SLA template."
"Certainly. I don't think it gets used much these days, but it's there."
An exhaustive search of the administration section of the filing areas has failed to locate a copy of the standard SLA. No one actually remembers using it - or even seeing it. However, it must exist as I have been referring to it in my annual reports and accreditation submissions for years. It is even mentioned on our intranet pages. What more positive proof of its existence could there be?
To paraphrase Voltaire (not something I do most days), if the SLA did not exist, it would be necessary to invent one. I was just about to admit defeat and commission our technical author when an e-mail popped up from Old Harry. Good man, Harry. He may have been confined by arthritis and incontinence to the home for retired ITers, but he still keeps his ear to the ground (Ed: is this possible, given his conditions?). The e-mail confirms that the template does indeed exist and even tells us where the signed copies of SLAs issued to user departments can be found. They formed part of the "air flow control system" stuffed in the computer room floor void by Harry as part of his former duties as ops manager.
The computer suite has been turned into an archaeological site. Floor tile removals have revealed a series of ancient documents, looted from the now long-forgotten paper records archive to be used as air blockers. Great piles of music roll are interspersed with screwed-up sheets of A4 used to fill the gaps. Among these we find several examples of our SLA - proof positive that it has been used in anger.
There is a bit of an issue with the exemplar SLAs we now have to hand. Most date from the late 1960s and early 1970s. As well as the services descriptions being rather dated, the wording is at times somewhat arcane.
For example, "Forsooth, thou facinorous wretch shalt not beteem thy papertape upon the custard of mine esteemed machine operator" fails to meet the expectations of modern customer relations - even if most users are still facinorous.
This was first published in February 2006