A New Approach to Prioritizing Your Ticket System: The Evidence

This third and final installment in our A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization series will outline how a weighted approach to prioritizing your ticket system can be applied in practice. In this post, we will look to highlight the success of different weightings and their respective benefits and overall results.

Let’s start, however, by recapping some of the main points from our previous posts. This will allow for a greater contextual picture to be built and the benefits of applying weightings to tickets to be realized more clearly.

The Attributes of a Service Desk Ticket

In our first post, we discussed the attributes of a service desk ticket and touched on the pieces of information it should contain – one of these being an associated priority. We saw how the ITIL framework stipulates that a ticket’s priority should be derived from its perceived urgency and impact.

But while the ITIL guidelines, which are based on urgency and impact, make for a simple way to derive priorities, they’re not without their faults. The most prominent being the neglect of lower priority tickets due to the dynamic nature of a service desk work queue.

The guidance goes on to suggest that the use of a target resolution time can associate a time left attribute to tickets in a queue. By ordering tickets by their time left we tend to have the high priority tickets addressed first but no low priority ticket gets neglected, since all tickets will ultimately approach their target resolution time, if unresolved.

A Different Approach to Ticket Prioritization: Weighted Time Left

Vivantio proposes a different approach; one that takes the ITIL concept of a target resolution time but applies a weighting to the time left in order to ultimately return the best value to the business.

This subtle addition means that greater business value is afforded and lower priority tickets don’t fall by the wayside. Weighting can also be applied in relation to specific departments or individuals, such as VIPs, and also to certain ticket categories. This makes it a versatile method in which to influence the order is which tickets are addressed.

In fact, the impact of applying weightings to tickets is best seen when compared against tickets that have had no weighting applied.

Using ‘Weighted Time Left’ in Practice

The following is a graphical representation of the tickets that could potentially be in a queue of work. Each balloon represents a collection of tickets with a certain priority. For each ticket that is logged with a specific priority move the appropriate balloon to the left. For each ticket that is resolved within SLA the balloons move up. The dotted line reflects the ideal situation where all the tickets are resolved within SLA.

With no weighting applied it is the medium tickets that are particularly noticeable for failing their SLAs:

non-weighted-ticket-prioritization

 Without weighting applied to tickets

Once we apply weighting, every type of ticket takes a step in the right direction towards the resolution with SLA line. This is an absolutely ideal scenario and sees a significant shift with medium and critical tickets:

ticket-prioritization-weighted

 With weighting applied to tickets

Perhaps surprisingly, our research actually showed that different weightings had little or no impact between them. It was the action of simply applying a weighting that made the biggest difference:

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As you can see, the difference in SLA targets met between tickets with a mild weighting and tickets with an extreme weighting is negligible. However, there is a significant difference between tickets with no weighting and those with a mild weighting – 72 per cent and 79 per cent respectively.

High Value Tickets are Prioritized First

The most important benefit realized by applying weightings to tickets is that the ones with the highest value to the business are prioritized first. By focusing on these tickets, IT service providers can ensure that they are always returning the greatest value to their customers in the first instance

Furthermore, tickets that can be prioritized based on their weighted time left allow service desk agents to benefit from more defined procedures. There are no questions raised about which tickets should be focused on next and IT managers can even manipulate weightings to ensure effective control is maintained over the service desk.

Lastly, improved SLA targets are seen across the board, even though the amount of tickets processed, when they were raised and the effort involved remain the same.

Choosing the Right Weighting to Drive Business Value

Our testing was primarily conducted using mild weightings. In reality though, specific service desks need to have weightings that complement the needs of the businesses they serve. Our research suggests that the creation of a bespoke service desk profile is crucial and ultimately dependent on the nature of the business, the type of work, effort, frequency, ticket type ratios and respective SLAs.

The weightings we used can be seen in the following table:

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These mild weightings served their purpose but to investigate the effect of more extreme weightings we also applied a weighting of less than 1. Although this might seem counter intuitive, it actually worked out – in some cases, granted – to assume that more time is available than the SLA target dictates.

10% More Tickets Resolved Within Target Resolution Time

The bottom line in our findings is that almost 10 per cent (9.7) more tickets were resolved within their target time when a weighting was used. It goes without saying that this represents a significant improvement in performance and sees the service desk not only operating more successfully, but more efficiently too. To use a real-world example, in a fifty-seat service desk, it’s the equivalent of adding five new members to your team.

We have proven that by adding a simple weighting to the time left on a ticket, the ITIL framework can be taken to the next level to realize true value for the business and its users.

Despite being in its infancy, we believe that the weighted approach to ticket prioritization could represent the future of service management. If it can be combined with a more complex model that considers other business factors in the equation, the possibilities are very exciting, indeed. Complex algorithms can be written to customize the approach for individual service desks and the ever-evolving business needs.