9 essential components of an optimal ticketing system

 

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02-Apr-2019 10:55:00 | Plan-Net | IT strategy & best practice, IT Support

A ticketing system is essentially your central hub for managing IT user support requests. It enables your team to capture IT needs from across your organisation, to assess their nature, to prioritise them, and to enable effective resolution of issues.

In an ideal world, the right ticketing system should result in the following benefits to your business:

Increase the overall effectiveness of your IT. For instance, it can help improve efficiency of your support team by enabling a structured way in which to work and assist you in extracting the best value from your IT investments.

Help keep downtime to an absolute minimum. There is a swift, seamless process, both for the reporting of incidents - and for their resolution.

  • Mitigate the effects of major incidents. The benefits of containment cannot be overestimated - and the right approach to ticketing can stop a major internal event from having significant public consequences.
  • Increase efficiency with time. Through the systematic capture, categorisation and logging of incidents, a ticketing system enables you to build up a knowledge base; one that can inform and shape your response to future events. In other words, the more you use your system, the better it becomes.

When they are operating optimally, the best ticketing systems tend to have certain elements in common. As a starting point, here are the key components to look for…

1. Ease of Use

Cumbersome interfaces, time wasted in searching for the information you need, the need to enter the same information into the system on multiple occasions: these issues can all significantly reduce your capacity to manage requests effectively. In the worst cases, a clunky, difficult to use system may encourage your people to bypass the system entirely.

As a support agent, time is of the essence (especially when you have multiple live issues to manage). The last thing that agents want to be doing is jumping back and forth between multiple screens and tabs to piece together a ticket chain. As well as slowing down the support process, it means that they system becomes more prone to error.

From the perspective of your support agents, a system would generally be considered user-friendly if it has the following elements:

  • It has a streamlined and intuitive user interface; one that enables the ticket to be updated with ease.
  • It features ‘at-a-glance’ visibility: from viewing a ticket, users should be able to ascertain the current status of an individual request immediately.
  • Democratisation: In other words, the system should be capable of being used and understood by anyone encountering it – not just those with high level technical skills.

2. Ticketing System Capability

IT estates can be complicated beasts, with scattered endpoints and users - along with business systems residing on-site and in the cloud. Ideally, your ticketing system will match this complexity, with capabilities that include the following:

  • Change and release management. In other words, the ticketing system should help you overcome the problems associated with delivering new systems and functionality – not just fixing issues with existing systems.
  • Collaboration. Especially with complex problems – or those that are tricky to diagnose immediately, it takes more than a simple phone call or email exchange to get to the heart of the matter. Look for solutions that enable a collaborative exchange between end user and service agent – e.g. the ability to chat, submit screenshots and screen recordings simultaneously. Likewise, a mobile version allows your team to manage support on the go. It also helps if agents are able to post updates via email or the web interface.
  • Configuration management. You should be able to provide technicians (and users, where appropriate), the privileges they need to resolve issues with the minimum of disruption and delay.
  • End-to-end management. The same agent should be able to manage the lifecycle of a ticket from initial reporting through to closing. This includes assigning & reassigning, escalating, routing and closing tickets. For linked issues, you should be able to group related tickets together and manage them as a cluster.
  • Workflow design. Issues can vary hugely in terms of complexity and nature, which means that not all tickets are the same. Choose a system that lets you create multiple ticket templates that can be loaded on command to make responding to tickets even easier.

3. Knowledge Management

Responding time and again to the exact same issues wastes both time and resources. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to choose a ticket management system that empowers your Service Desk analysts. Good knowledge management increases the likelihood that those analysts will be able to fix problems themselves - thereby avoiding the need for further escalation.

Key features to look for include a searchable FAQ/knowledge base, along with a self-service web portal. These can result in the following major benefits:

  • Higher first time fix & resolution rates
  • Increased end-user satisfaction
  • Improved communication with support agents
  • Fewer tickets to respond to.

4. Reporting & SLA Management

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) defines the key service targets and the responsibilities of the help desk. It sets out the nature and scope of services provided by the desk, the procedure for submitting a response and also (ideally) sets out the desk’s broad procedure for prioritising requests.

The SLA therefore has a big role to play in managing user expectations. For it to work in real life, this key SLA information really needs to be hardwired into the ticketing system. For instance, it should not generally be possible for a service agent to prioritise conflicting matters in a way that departs from the SLA. This ensures that SLA violations are avoided.

With good ticketing systems, you should also be able to easily extract reports against your SLAs in order to show the business how the IT service is performing and assess trends and areas of improvement. Good reporting systems are easy to build, real-time, customisable and dynamic.

5. Self-Service Enablement

90% of users expect organisations to offer self-service customer support via a portal. 45% of companies offering a self-service element report reduced phone enquiries.

The aim should be to enable end-users to access information, to delve into resources and request help in a way that’s convenient to them.

A user self-service portal is one of the most effective ways of achieving this. For many routine, commonly-encountered issues, users will be able to find precisely the help they need without any further input.

However, for those situations where further help is required, it’s vital to be able to switch to a mode of communication – ideally without leaving the portal. Email – and especially live chat – can both be very useful here.

6. Ability to Integrate with Other Monitoring Tools

Make sure your ticketing system integrates with other business apps and infrastructure management systems in play. That way, your Service Desk can be notified automatically if the infrastructure management system picks up on any performance issues. This helps to give you a single view of the health of your systems.

7. Self-learning AI Features

Your ticketing system should enable you to draw insights from your history of events. Look out for the ability to request full reports – as well as the ability to customise, schedule and export those reports with ease.

All of this can massively enhance your ability to spot problem areas with IT systems – and to improve your approach to incident management overall.

8. Cost

Make sure you understand the true cost to your business of the various ticketing system options under consideration. This includes initial outlay, implementation costs and licenses.

9. Flexibility

It can be hard to anticipate your IT support needs for three months down the line – let alone three years. One of the benefits of a SaaS approach to ticketing is its ability to let you scale up (or down) as required at short notice.

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Pete Canavan
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