How do I troubleshoot SLAs?

“How do I troubleshoot SLAs?” Find out on this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST IT Service Management Show by Appfire. Atlassian expert Rachel Wright explains what to do when your Service Level Agreement (“SLA”) results show inconsistent data or unexpected results. She suggests some things to try and ways to simplify queries and settings to get your SLAs back on track.

About the guest

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator. She wrote “The Jira Strategy Admin Workbook,” and “The Ultimate Guide to Jira Migrations: How to Migrate from Jira Server to Data Center or Cloud”. She’s also a speaker, an Atlassian Community Leader and author of courses for new and advanced Jira admins and users.

She started using Jira and Confluence in 2011, became an administrator in 2013, and was certified in 2016 (the first year you could actually get certified). She’s the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.

About the show

The BEST ITSM Show by Appfire brings you expert insights for IT service delivery, so your employees and customers have what they need to succeed. Get the right tech and tips for the right job at hand. Look like you’ve come from the future with all your new ITSM smarts. Every episode is a brisk 10 minutes—less time than it takes to provision a laptop or troubleshoot a tech support issue.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

How do I troubleshoot SLAs?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to answer the question how do I troubleshoot service level agreements (SLAs). To help us with that is Rachel Wright, entrepreneur, process engineer, Atlassian-certified Jira administrator, and author of The Jira Strategy Admin Workbook and The Ultimate Guide to Jira Migrations. She’s also working on The Ultimate Guide to Powering Up Your Service Desk, which is due out January 2023 from Appfire, so keep an eye out for that. Stick around for the next 10 minutes because it’s going to be valuable.

Rachel, thanks so much for joining. How do I troubleshoot my service level agreements?

Rachel:  It’s interesting, SLAs are a little complex, it’s hard to understand what’s going on in the background. If you’re not great at math, it’s even harder. There’s three things that I do when my results don’t match my expectations.

The first thing is simply just to wait and recalculate. Jira needs to recalculate and reindex the data. Those SLAs changes, if you make them in the middle of the workday, for example, they’re not going to apply automatically, so there will be a little bit of a lag between today’s information and whatever you just changed. It has to reindex itself and recalculate. It’s good to know that recalculation only happens for unresolved issues. It doesn’t go through all of the old issues you have back there, just the unresolved ones. 

Another thing that I do is try to simplify the query and all of the SLA settings as much as possible. Lots of things can impact performance and lots of things can impact how your SLAs perform specifically, like if you have a ton of them, or if you have a lot of conditions, or even just inefficient JQL statements. Sometimes you forget to add the parentheses for order of operations. It might still return results that are pretty accurate, but whatever you can do to simplify and make sure that the scope of that query is as small as it can be, that will speed up the processing time, of course. 

The final thing is I check for goal changes. If you’re not the only administrator, it’s very possible that somebody went in and changed the goal for the SLA. The goal is the metric that you’re trying to meet, the service expectation. Let’s give an easy example. If there is currently an SLA of 4 hours for this issue, one hour has elapsed, and then I change the SLA to 3 hours and it recalculates, now the user only has one hour to complete the request. They may not be able to, they might miss that deadline, or the SLA might automatically breach because not enough time is left over. 

So, check to see if there were any recent goal changes. I try to make changes like that during off-hours so as to not impact people. Also, before I make the change, I take a look at what issues will be impacted, just to be mindful of whatever I do is going to impact another team, and it’s good to know and communicate with the lead of that team, especially when you’re lowering the goal. If you’re making the goal longer, it’s not so much of a big deal. 

Of course, another thing to check for is the default hours per day in your application. In my application, eight hours equals one day. If your application has a different number, and that is configurable Jira-wide, your calculations work differently. 

The final thing is the way the numbers are displayed often trips people up. For example, if I enter 1W for one week, that’s 40 hours, eight hours for five days. It might display differently, though. It could display as a few days and some hours, it could display in all seconds, all minutes, whatever. It’s important to be able to convert that nice format, like the 1H, 2W, 3M, weeks, hours, minutes, stuff like that, it’s important to be able to convert those in your head and see if the SLA result matches but is just in a different format. 

Kerry:  I convert nothing in my head. My eighth-grade math teacher would be horrified at the thought of me trying to, because that didn’t go well. 

Are there apps that can help you to manage your SLAs?

Rachel:  Of course. Jira does a lot out of the box, but when it doesn’t do enough and you need more, you can always extend it with applications from the Atlassian marketplace. 

I thought of a quick story. Once, I kept getting emails saying the SLA is broken, it’s not working, it’s not the right number of time left, we’re being cheated out of our time. It was one of those examples of a bad conversion. They didn’t realize how many hours were set per day in Jira, so their expectation didn’t meet the configuration. That’s so true sometimes in Jira just in general, so make sure that you manage that as well. Some user education goes a long way.

Kerry:  At, we have Time to SLA that can be very helpful. For sure, you’re going to want to get your hands on The Guide to Powering Up Your Service Desk that Rachel is working on that will be available from Appfire in January. There is a whole section on SLAs. Of course, Rachel has her own website that you can visit for more information as well. Rachel, if you want to give that out, people can come find you for help, too. 

Rachel:  Absolutely. I’m at

Kerry:  Thanks so much, Rachel. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. To everybody for coming today, thank you. If you’d like more episodes of The Best ITSM Show, you can find them at Spoiler alert, a lot of them feature Rachel Wright because she is the best. 

Thanks for stopping by.


Last updated: 2023-07-31

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