How to write a good agreement

Agencies today face the difficult task of translating their users' desires into formal service-level agreements. Here are a few areas agencies should focus on when writing their agreements, according to experts in the field.

* Completeness. The document should clearly outline all of the functions that will be monitored and include end-to-end response time expectations or goals for specific components, such as router throughput.

* Reporting functions. The agreement should list the reports that will be used to gauge performance, how often they will be generated and who will be able to access them.

* Change management. Networks are dynamic entities; applications, devices and users are added or subtracted. The agreement should outline the impact such changes will have on performance requirements.

* Clarity. Although a service-level agreement is a formal contract, it should not read like a legal brief. Both parties should easily understand the basic principles as well as the potential penalties.

* Consistency. Service-level agreements tend to be complex and lengthy, so the authors should ensure that terms, such as "end-user response time," are used in a consistent manner throughout the document.

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