Master Service Agreement Checklist: 11 Key Essentials


The master service agreement checklist is your essential companion for confidently handling complex master service agreements (MSAs). It makes creating, reviewing, or changing MSAs easier. 

The checklist offers a structured framework that covers key aspects, such as legal and contractual compliance, scope of services, pricing and payment terms, dispute resolution, confidentiality, termination procedures, and more.

Frequently, there is a misconception that a master service agreement (MSA) and a service level agreement (SLA) are synonymous. However, these two legal instruments possess distinct characteristics in terms of their components and underlying purposes.

The service level agreement primarily outlines the obligations and responsibilities of the service provider, focusing on performance metrics and standards. In contrast, the master service agreement comprehensively addresses the requirements and conditions applicable to both parties involved in the agreement, providing a broader framework for the relationship.

Having an MSA means avoiding the hassle of renegotiating multiple contracts. Managing numerous contracts can be confusing and time-consuming when disputes arise. The MSA helps you with the flexibility to adapt to changing business conditions. However, an SLA (service level agreement) outlines the specific service requirements and your expected responsibilities as a user. 

Below is a brief comparison section on MSA vs SLA for a clearer perspective.

Master Service Agreement (MSA) vs. Service-Level Agreement (SLA)

Master service agreements (MSAs) and service-level agreements (SLAs) are fundamental components of business contracts, each with distinct purposes and areas of focus.

Master Service Agreement (MSA):

  • Scope: MSAs establish the overarching terms and conditions of a long-term business relationship between two parties, often a service provider and a client. They cover various elements, including legal compliance, pricing, and general expectations.

  • Flexibility: MSAs offer flexibility for accommodating multiple projects or services over an extended period, simplifying negotiations, and facilitating ongoing partnerships.

Service-Level Agreement (SLA):

  • Purpose: SLAs are specific agreements that outline performance expectations for a particular service, project, or aspect of the overall relationship.

  • Focus: SLAs concentrate on defining measurable performance metrics, such as response times, uptime, or resolution times, along with associated consequences or remedies if these targets are not met.

  • Applicability: SLAs are typically temporary and project-specific, providing clear guidelines for individual service elements.

To sum up, MSAs establish the framework for a long-term business partnership, while SLAs hone in on the specific performance standards for individual components of that partnership. Both documents are crucial for maintaining clarity, accountability, and successful collaboration.

Master Service Agreement: A Quick Overview 

A master service agreement (MSA) is a legal contract that is the foundation for a business relationship between two parties. It outlines the terms and conditions that govern their interactions and the services provided. 

MSAs are typically broad, covering overarching principles, while specific details may be included in separate documents or statements of work. These agreements help streamline negotiations, reduce the need for constant contract revisions, and establish a framework for long-term collaboration.

MSA is a more detailed style of contract with high technicality and more complex with legal jargon. Also, the master service agreements are appropriate for long-term, ongoing business relationships. The flexibility offered in these contracts can eliminate disputes and allow both parties to maintain healthy relationships.

Covering the most essential components in one comprehensive agreement simplifies the negotiation process and helps prevent disputes. 

Key points in an MSA include:

  • Scope of Services: Clearly define what services are covered by the agreement. This eliminates ambiguity and ensures that both parties have a shared understanding of expectations.

  • Pricing and Payment Terms: Establish the cost structure and payment schedules. Clarity on financial terms is essential for a smooth working relationship.

  • Legal and Contractual Compliance: Ensure the MSA aligns with legal regulations and contracts. This keeps both parties in good standing and avoids potential legal issues.

  • Dispute Resolution: Outline the procedures for handling conflicts or disagreements. Having a clear dispute resolution process can prevent misunderstandings from escalating.

  • Confidentiality: Address the protection of sensitive information. This is particularly important in industries where proprietary data is shared.

  • Termination Procedures: Specify how the agreement can be terminated. A well-defined exit strategy helps both parties part ways amicably if necessary.

By having a solid master service agreement checklist in place, businesses can operate more efficiently, minimize risks, and build stronger, long-lasting partnerships. This quick overview serves as a starting point for understanding the essentials of MSAs, enabling you to make informed decisions and ensure successful collaborations.

A well-drafted MSA checklist works as a template for future negotiations. It covers the essential components to ensure a robust contractual relationship between the parties. It is a good blueprint that can protect both parties’ interests while offering dispute resolutions to any obstacle arising during the contractual period.

Benefits of Using a Master Service Agreement Checklist

Employing a Master Service Agreement (MSA) checklist offers several advantages that can significantly improve your business processes and relationships. Here are the key benefits:

  • Efficiency: An MSA checklist streamlines the creation, review, and management of MSAs, saving valuable time and resources by providing a structured and organized approach.

  • Clarity: It ensures that all essential elements of the MSA are thoroughly considered, preventing ambiguity and misunderstandings in the agreement.

  • Compliance: An MSA checklist helps you adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of legal issues down the line.

  • Consistency: It promotes consistency across your MSAs, ensuring that the same standards and terms are applied to all your business relationships.

  • Reduced Risk: By addressing potential pitfalls and risks upfront, an MSA checklist helps safeguard your interests and minimizes the chances of disputes.

  • Cost Savings: It eliminates the need for extensive back-and-forth negotiations, reducing the associated costs and resources required for MSA development.

  • Flexibility: While ensuring a standardized framework, the MSA checklist allows you to tailor specific details to individual projects and services.

  • Enhanced Collaboration: The checklist is a valuable tool for alignment and collaboration between legal professionals, business owners, and others involved in MSA negotiations.

  • Professionalism: It reflects a commitment to professionalism and due diligence in your business practices, which can bolster your reputation and competitive advantage.

  • Long-Term Success: A well-structured MSA checklist contributes to the establishment of robust, sustainable, and mutually beneficial business relationships.

    Thus, utilizing an MSA checklist is a strategic move for businesses seeking to improve efficiency, reduce risks, enhance clarity, and maintain strong, long-lasting partnerships with clients and collaborators.

    This article will detail the essential master service agreement checklist that will protect the parties from any downsides and pitfalls.

11 Essentials Of Master Service Agreement Checklist 

MSA provides all the terms and conditions governing current and future activities and responsibilities. Listing the basic details in the master service agreement will help you to have complete clarity of the contract and make the process easy.

The norms provided in the MSA help in resolving any disputes when they occur. Therefore, it increases the value of the business and strengthens the . Below mentioned are the key components that are typically included in the MSA.

1. Definitions

Sometimes it becomes difficult to get your hands on the legal terminologies. It would be helpful to define it even before you put forth a disclaimer. At the beginning of the agreement, defining various terms will help you to understand the contract better.

The defined terms are used in the contract; this definition section eliminates the scope of any ambiguity. When any term is used in the body of a contract, it should be understood just like its definition. It is strongly advised to use only one defined term for each definition.

For example, terms like arbitration, novation, service documentation, preamble, customer data, etc., are better understood when properly defined.

2. Confidentiality

Almost all the agreements involve some confidentiality clauses within them. It is difficult to classify what information constitutes confidentiality. However, it is necessary to define the clauses that are required to prevent releasing sensitive information, ideas, transaction details, and more to third parties.

Protection of clauses comes into the scenario where you agree not to disclose any confidential information unless it is a compelled disclosure case. A compelled disclosure occurs when you are forced to disclose any confidential information due to a court order or statutory duty.

3. Payment Term

Clarity on payment terms is a must in a contract. This section provides all the details concerning payments, finance charges, refunds, etc. It includes the estimated cost you must pay, how often you will pay, and how long you will continue the payments.

In addition, this section gives information on when you will receive the invoice and mentions finance charges. are additional charges levied on the outstanding balance and are charged when you take an extension of credit.

For example, if you have been billed $350 for December 2023 in a contract with a SaaS app and the last payable date is 6 January 2024. Assuming that you have missed the last payment date and you make the payment on 16th January 2024 and the charges for 10 days will be applied to you with a 20% interest rate.

Therefore, the finance charges for 10 days will be (350*0.20*10)/365 = $1.92. So you are required to pay $350 + $1.92 = $351.92.

Note: Finance charges Formula = (Outstanding amount*interest rate*no. of days)/365.

4. Access and Usage Restrictions

The section outlines the access and usage restrictions that you shall follow. access restriction clauses put you in charge of ensuring authorized access to the services. It covers all the conditions that are associated with the use of third-party products and content.

In the contract, there is also mention of the usage restrictions. It is dictated as per the plan subscribed for using the service. The usage restrictions can be anything from restricting the number of users to proprietary rights and reselling restrictions.

5. Intellectual Property Rights

The master service agreement covers intellectual property rights that offer details on limited rights given to you on the ownership of any other vendors’ intellectual properties. It gives you coverage of all the rights you have on the product or service which you have agreed to procure.

The intellectual property rights depend on both parties, including you and the vendor. Sometimes, you will be entitled to all the intellectual property rights, while in other cases, you will be entitled to perpetual rights. This will give the vendor the chance to retain the intellectual property rights and their patents.

Moreover, it consists of information associated with your data storage, usage, and sharing. It also mentions de-identified data usage and helps you to stay compliant.

6. Warranties

A master service agreement can be used to agree upon the scope and coverage of the warranty. Warranty is the license source agreement that the software will comply with specifications for a limited period after delivery or installation. This clause offers assurances to you about the service performed.

In business practice, the warranty tends to get along with the maintenance. For example, if the annual maintenance is 20% of the license price and you have a six-month warranty, then you can effectively get free maintenance to the value of 10% of the license price.

7. Limitations of Liability/Indemnification

Indemnification refers to compensating the contractual parties for losses that you have incurred or will incur as related to a specified incident. Most of the contracts have this liability or indemnification section as a default.

The most important elements of the clause may or should include conventional risks covered by indemnity, the reciprocal terms of the service and its corresponding defects or losses, the scope of the claim, the maximum liability cap, and the time limit to raise a claim.

8. Terms of Termination

Businesses split up all the time. The MSA shows how the parties should handle a corporate divorce. The terms and termination clause covers aspects like the terms of the agreement, its effective date, suspension scenarios, and termination clauses.

Moreover, it gives you visibility into the various instances that can result in the termination or possible suspension of the agreement.

For example, the clause might include that if there is any lack of support from the vendor for which there is a stop in business operations, you have all the rights to terminate the contract with seven days written notice.

9. Venue of Law

A master service agreement should identify the location where a legal resolution will occur, for example, arbitration, a specific state, or a federal court.

The two important elements in contracts that are sometimes overlooked and confused are Venue and Jurisdiction.

The venue is the place in which the dispute resolution will take place. It allows you to agree that the laws and regulations of a particular state or country govern the contract.

For example, the agreement might state the following: "this agreement has been made and executed in and shall be governed by the laws of the state of New York." This means if a buyer wishes to dispute any of the contract's provisions, then New York laws and rules will be applied to determine the outcome of the dispute.

Jurisdiction often refers to the location where the dispute will be decided. If both parties are located in two separate jurisdictions, the agreement will dictate under which jurisdiction the dispute will be resolved.

10. Responsibilities

The obligations that each party is required to fulfill under the provisions of the contract are referred to as the responsibilities. It provides details such as what each party will be required to do and when it should be done.

The provisions of the agreement, updates, and upgrades that are promised during the tenure to timelines of the contract will all be clearly outlined in this section, along with its other aspects like data protection and privacy/confidentiality for the customers, adherence to applicable laws and regulations, support, professional services, and usage of subcontractors / sub-vendors.

11. Dispute Resolution

The dispute resolution section of the MSA explains how you and the vendor will resolve or handle any issue within the engagement. This aids in reducing litigation involvement and determining how to address the problems that arise within the contractual relationship.

Some of the most common disputes that tend to arise in the contract are employee injury or death, property damage, communication gaps or failure to meet deadlines, failure to pay as agreed, potential issues with performance or service or defects within, and hidden or unauthorized charges. In such scenarios, appointing a mediator who is an independent individual who facilitates a resolution between the parties is sometimes the best option.

Now that you have the Master Service Agreement Checklist, vendor relationship management is more streamlined. However, if you require a dedicated tool, Zluri offers efficient SaaS vendor management features.

How Zluri Helps In Effective Vendor Management

Zluri- SaaS management platform

Zluri's automated system enhances the entire lifecycle of vendor management, ensuring a seamless process for vendor relationship managers. From vendor selection and contract negotiation process to tracking deliverables, the platform streamlines each step, integrating seamlessly with your core business systems to maintain a centralized hub for vendors.

Vendor Managment

Here are some key attributes of Zluri that greatly benefit the vendor relationship management process:

  1. Automated Workflows: Zluri automates vendor management tasks with predefined workflows, reducing the need for manual effort and enhancing overall efficiency. Its extensive toolkit encompasses contract management, vendor performance metrics, and risk identification.

  2. Renewal Calendar: Zluri equips IT teams with a renewal calendar that keeps them ahead of all SaaS subscription renewals. Strategic notifications for 30 days, 15 days, and one day before renewal provides ample time to assess options. 


    Additionally, it offers timely payment reminders at 7 days and one day prior to the due date, aiding in effective financial planning.

3. Custom Alerts: Zluri allows for flexible customization of alerts, catering to specific needs and preferences. With Zluri, you can define and personalize the types of notifications you want to receive. These notifications can be related to various aspects of vendor management. For instance, contract duration, delivery requirements, performance evaluations, payment due dates, or any other critical milestones of the contracting process.

By harnessing the power of Zluri's renewal calendar and its precisely timed alerts, IT teams can prioritize high-value contracts, make well-informed decisions, negotiate favorable terms, and avoid unexpected auto-renewals or payment oversights.

So, why not give Zluri a try and transform your vendor management into a hassle-free process? With its comprehensive feature set and user-friendly interface, Zluri serves as the perfect solution to streamline vendor management and maximize ROI. Schedule a personalized demo today!




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