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We are migrating everything off our core server shortly but we need outside expert help. We know what we want to do but we are nervous about the execution so we want to hire a reputable consultancy.

I want to contact a few consultancies to get quotes to do the implementation. But even this is unfamiliar territory. I am thinking of asking the consultancies for estimates for implementation times, costs, rollback plans, return to operation times and willingness to execute some the project remotely. I think there may be three to four days work spread over three to four weeks. Would this qualify as an sla? What information should we be asking for? What should we be looking out for in the replies and what should we be insisting on?

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closed as not constructive by John Gardeniers, womble, Iain Nov 16 '12 at 20:20

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What you're looking for here is not an SLA, as an SLA is typically for ongoing support of a service, rather than an exceptional change to that service (as you're describing).

You may want to read up on the RFP process as it's used in IT consultancy/service procurement just as much as any other field: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_proposal

As well as surrounding information on the responding parties that allows you to make informed decisions about whether they're a suitably capable and professional organisation, you should also get details in the RFPs about the proposed approach to the work to be performed.

All of this together should provide enough of a basis for you to select the best provider and method to meet your needs.

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You've actually got a fairly decent set of things to ask for already. The fact that you're even thinking about asking about rollback plans and such suggests you're thinking a lot more about this than the average customer -- which puts you in a good place.

The trick is in evaluating the responses -- they'll all promise the world, and the more incompetent the staff, the more slick the tender response. It's tough, and ultimately a lot of it comes down to your "feel" for the person or people involved -- not a particularly good or scientific basis, but I'm yet to find someone who isn't in IT who can see through the bullshit (and to find someone who can see through the bullshit, you've got to... see through the bullshit. It's a circular problem).

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One helpful thing to evaluate responses -- ask for references, CVs of people who will be assigned for the job, experience they have with similar projects.

This may be hard on companies who want to enter the market (how to get the first reference?), but it reduces your risk (lower chance they will be learning too much on your project).

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