Modelling Service Level Agreements for Business Process Outsourcing Services

Service level agreements (SLAs) have been used by many proposals in the last decade to automate different stages of the service lifecycle, using a formal definition of the different parts of an SLA such as service level objectives (SLOs), penalties, or metrics, to automate their negotiation, the provisioning and enforcement of SLA–based services, the monitoring and explanation of SLA runtime violations, or the prediction of such violations. What all of these proposals have in common is that most of them have been designed for computational services. Therefore, they are aimed at enhancing software that supports the execution of computational services such as network monitors, virtualisation software, or application servers with SLA–aware capabilities, where there are no human or non-automatic tasks involved in service consumption.

On the other hand, business process outsourcing (BPO) services are non–computational services such as logistics, supply–chain, or IT delivery services, that are based on the provisioning of business processes as services, providing partial or full business process outsourcing. Like computational services, their execution is regulated by SLAs and supported by specific software. In this case, since BPO services are process–oriented, the software that supports them is usually a process–aware information systems (PAIS) such as ERPs, CRMs, or business process management systems (BPMSs). However, unlike computational services, there is little work related to the extension of PAIS with SLA–aware capabilities to support BPO services.

A PAIS with SLA–aware capabilities, i.e. an SLA–aware PAIS, is a PAIS that uses explicit definitions of SLAs to enable or improve the automation of certain tasks related to both the SLAs and their fulfilment such as performance monitoring, human resource assignment or process configuration. For instance, an SLA–aware PAIS could be automatically instrumented according to the metrics defined in the SLA so that when there is a risk of not meeting an SLO, an alert is raised allowing the human actors involved in the process to take measures to mitigate the risk. Another example could be the automated configuration of the process, e.g. removing or adding activities, executed by the SLA–aware PAIS depending on the conditions of the SLA agreed with the client.

Apart from the benefits derived from the automation of these tasks, the need for a SLA–aware PAIS becomes more critical in a business–process–as–a–service scenario. A business–process–as–a–service is a new category of cloud–delivered service, which, according to Gartner, can be defined as “the delivery of BPO services that are sourced from the cloud and constructed for multitenancy. Services are often automated, and where human process actors are required, there is no overtly dedicated labour pool per client. The pricing models are consumption–based or subscription–based commercial terms. As a cloud service, the business–process–as–a–service model is accessed via Internet–based technologies.” In this setting, the conditions of the SLA agreed with each client may vary. Therefore, it is crucial for the PAIS that supports the business–process–as–a–service to behave according to the SLA agreed with the client. An example could be the prioritisation of the execution of tasks for those clients whose SLAs have bigger penalties if they are not met.

Our proposal to model BPO SLAs combines well founded approaches and standards for modelling computational SLAs and PPIs. Specifically, we rely on WS–Agreement, which provides the general SLA structure, BPMN, which is used to model the business process related to the service, PPINOT, which allows the definition of metrics, and iAgree, which provides a language to define SLOs and penalties. The details can be found at a paper published at CAISE 2015.

In the following we present the real scenarios to which our approach has been applied.They take place in different scenarios

Most of them take place in the context of the definition of statements of technical requirements (SOTR) of a public company of the Andalusian Local Government, from now on Andalusian Public Company, APC for short, while other belongs to the SLA template published by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), in America.