1 min read

How to Set Up Effective Support Ticket Categorization

By Greg Rich on 2/12/15 9:00 AM


After decades of experience in the service management industry and having worked with enterprise giants like Toshiba and Porsche, we’ve seen countless ticket categorization structures in practice. We’ve also seen first hand what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

As you might already know, the ITIL framework does address best practices for ticket categorization. However, ITIL doesn’t identify the elements that are crucial to getting it right. The key to establishing effective ticket categories is two-fold:



Setting ticket categories is such a contentious process for many teams because priorities are open to interpretation by various parties. For example, CIOs will often push for categories that allow for meaningful reporting. On the other hand, service agents will want categories that drive their own individual service efficiency. The key to getting it right is involving people from all levels to make sure you address everyone’s core needs.

The result will be ticket categories that deliver on all levels, as well as maximum buy-in across your organization.



Using past tickets to test the suggested category structure is the quickest way to highlight successes or glaring problems. By reviewing service performance on completed tickets, duplications, unnecessary additions, and potentially confusing hierarchy become immediately clear. To echo the previous point, the wider team should be involved here as they may interpret categories differently. Ultimately, you’ll get the feedback you need to set effective ticket categories.



The practical benefits of defining ticket categories this way are clear and measurable, including:

  • Tickets are routed more accurately, more quickly and are resolved in less time.
  • Transformational change is driven through effective, meaningful reporting.
  • Team experts focus primarily on their specialist areas, leading to a higher service desk resolution rate.

Put simply, an effective categorization strategy will drive organizational efficiency, support service level agreements and provide insights into valuable long-term reporting.

Topics: Ticket Prioritization Service Management Ticket Categorization Ticket Best Practices Service Strategy
3 min read

Weighted Time Left: How This Concept Can Improve Support Ticket Times by 10%

By Greg Rich on 10/28/14 9:00 AM

Blog Series: A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization
  1. The Problems with ITIL’s Approach to Support Ticket Prioritization
  2. Weighted Time Left: How This Concept Can Improve Support Ticket Times by 10%

Welcome to the final installment of our A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization blog series.

This post will outline how a weighted approach to prioritizing your ticket system can be applied in practice. 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 post. This will allow for a greater contextual picture to be built and the benefits of applying weightings to tickets to be realized more clearly.



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 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.



With these faults in ITIL’s ticket prioritization methodology in mind, we have found 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 in 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.



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.



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 bottom line in our findings is that almost 10% (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.

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.

Read our full research results on this new ticket prioritization strategy in our whitepaper or feel free to catch back up on the first post in this series.

Blog Series: A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization

  1. The Problems with ITIL’s Approach to Support Ticket Prioritization
  2. Weighted Time Left: How This Concept Can Improve Support Ticket Times by 10%
Topics: Ticket Prioritization Service Management ITIL Service Strategy
4 min read

The Problems with ITIL’s Approach to Support Ticket Prioritization

By Greg Rich on 9/1/14 9:00 AM

Blog Series: A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization
  1. The Problems with ITIL’s Approach to Support Ticket Prioritization
  2. Weighted Time Left: How This Concept Can Improve Support Ticket Times by 10%

Welcome to the first in our two-part blog series A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization.

This post focuses on explaining the ITIL best practice approach when it comes to help desk ticket prioritization. We’ll explain the associated pros and cons of this approach and the reality of implementing these in a real-world business environment.



The ITIL service management framework stipulates that every interaction between a business and its IT provider–whether internal or external–should be recorded in the form of a support ticket. This electronic record effectively serves as the point of reference for both business users and IT personnel to track the progress of the work throughout its life cycle.

Each support ticket contains a description of the required work and specific data that the IT team will use to determine the ticket’s priority–which, in ITIL terms, is derived from the urgency and impact of the ticket. The ticket’s owner is then responsible for its management right up to its resolution and subsequent closure.

However, whilst ticket prioritization based on urgency and impact adheres to ITIL best practice, it is not the only method available. In fact, when coupled with a more flexible approach, greater value can be returned to the business in a shorter amount of time.



According to the ITIL framework, every ticket should be allocated an individual priority derived from its perceived urgency and impact. The higher the urgency and impact the higher the priority assigned, as depicted in the following diagram:



While ITIL best practice guidelines are stringently followed by businesses and IT providers alike, they present both pros and cons.

In reality, many IT providers deal with tickets on a priority basis. This approach makes sense because the higher priority tickets are, in theory, causing the business more pain. Therefore, by focusing on the highest priority tickets first, the high-impact business issues will be picked up before the lower impact issues and can be resolved in the swiftest time possible.

Also, priority based on urgency and impact is a simple way to derive priorities for IT service providers. There is no doubt involved when it comes to prioritizing tickets and every interaction is dealt with in a systematic and predictable way.

However, in practice, urgency tends not to vary too much between tickets. Some tickets with the same business impact may vary in the how quickly they need to be addressed but this is quite uncommon. For this reason, the urgency is perhaps not as valuable a differentiating criterion as some other factors, such as the impact.

Furthermore and more significantly, by focusing on high priority tickets, there is a danger that lower priority ones get neglected.



In a dynamic queue of work, where high priority tickets take precedent, there is an issue that is sometimes overlooked. That issue is that the attention given to lesser priority tickets can sometimes be lacking.

For example, an IT service provider’s focus remains on a high priority ticket until it is resolved. Their attention then turns to the lower priority tickets in turn. But what if another high priority ticket comes into the queue and requires attention?

This is a situation where lower priority tasks sometimes get neglected and, in extreme circumstances, don’t get dealt with at all. So, while the business feels less in terms of impact from a high priority ticket, there are certain individuals who become ultimately frustrated by the lack of attention their issue is receiving.

This actuality leads to business users submitting every request as “high priority” in the knowledge that it will be dealt with more swiftly–a scenario that is less than ideal.



As well as guidance on assigning a priority to a ticket, the ITIL framework provides businesses and IT service providers with guidelines for target resolution times. Obviously, each service contract is governed by its respective service level agreement (SLA), but the following diagram shows typical target resolution times based on priority:


Target resolution time is a standard metric in every SLA and one that can be closely monitored by both the business and IT service provider.

Ordering work by a ticket’s priority only will likely have the following result: the high priority tickets will be resolved within their target resolution time. However, the lower priority tickets will fail to be resolved within their target time, in spite of having a longer available time in which to be resolved.

These consistent low priority ticket breaches have a negative impact on the top-line SLAs, when in reality, they may represent quick wins for IT service providers that do not detrimentally affect the resolution of higher priority tickets.

A better outcome can be achieved by ordering the tickets by the time left they have left before they breach their target time. Considering the time left is a neat way that we can be confident that all tickets will ultimately be addressed since even the low priority tickets will eventually approach their target time.



The key results for a ticket prioritizing method are that it returns the highest business value in the shortest time whilst at the same time not neglecting the lower priority tickets. The assigning of a priority to tickets, having a target resolution time associated with each priority and then ordering the tickets in an order of how much time remains before the target resolution time is met is the most sophisticated solution that exists in the ITIL guidance.

Read the next part of this blog content series to learn more or download the full whitepaper detailing our complete research into this new approach to ticket prioritization.


Blog Series: A New Approach to Ticket Prioritization

  1. The Problems with ITIL’s Approach to Support Ticket Prioritization
  2. Weighted Time Left: How This Concept Can Improve Support Ticket Times by 10%
Topics: Ticket Prioritization Service Management ITIL Service Strategy