by Jenny Rains
Date Published July 14, 2016 - Last Updated July 14, 2016


Designing a ticket categorization structure that not only makes sense, but which can also stand the test of time is an important, if difficult, task. Support organizations must strike a balance between selecting categories that are easy for analysts to choose correctly and producing reports that allow management to pinpoint and address issues that need attention.

Support centers use ticket categorization to enable better routing, more-detailed reporting, and more-accurate problem analysis. HDI polled its community via an online survey in August and September 2011 to explore the current practices and state of ticket categorization in the IT service and technical support community. A total of 461 organizations responded to the survey; the survey results below include the 457 organizations that currently use some type of ticket categorization process in their support centers.

Ticket Categories

In general, if an organization is dissatisfied with its ticket categorization, it is not the technology’s functionality that is to blame. Most support centers appear to be satisfied with the tools they are using for ticket tracking; however, the results reveal that it is the ticket categories that could use some attention. Only 21 percent of organizations disagree with the statement “Our categories and/or subcategories need to be revisited,” while 38 percent strongly agree that they do need to be revisited.

To analyze current ticket categorization practices in the industry, organizations were asked how many categories are included at the highest level of their selection options. Most organizations (53%) report having ten or more high-level categories. In addition to the high-level (i.e., first) categories, most organizations include subcategories in their ticket categorization structure. Ninety-two percent have at least a second level of subcategories for capturing additional information about a ticket.

We asked the survey respondents to share the most popular categories used by their organizations. From that list, it is obvious that the support industry is served by a veritable smorgasbord of categorization structures. Reviewing this list of the most common ticket categories serves two purposes: first, some common structural themes bubble up, and second, it highlights similarities between the types of tickets support centers are handling in the various vertical industries and across the IT support industry at large. The list is too long to be reproduced here, but it can be viewed here in its entirety.

As alluded to earlier, most organizations are not overly satisfied with their current ticket categories. Less than eight percent strongly agree that “The current categories work well for [the] organization.”

To develop an effective schema, it is crucial that organizations keep the purpose of ticket categorization in mind. When organizations use service level agreements (SLAs) to help establish ticket categories (20%), chances are they are setting up a ticketing system that aligns with customer needs. If the categories drive the SLAs (12%), the focus is more internal and technical. However, the survey results revealed that in most organizations, there is no relationship between their SLAs and ticket categories (71%).

Managing Correct Ticket Categorization

As mentioned previously, placing tickets in the correct categorical buckets enables better ticket routing, reporting, and problem analysis. About one-third of organizations’ support staffs are not using the predefined categories as they were intended to be used or as they were defi ned. If resources are not allocated to train support staffs on the definitions and purpose of the categories, correct categorization can be a crapshoot; one-third of organizations report that their category definitions are not well communicated to their staffs. However, most organizations (72%) do allow ticket recategorization, if necessary, before closing a ticket. 

The last point with regard to managing correct ticket categorization is measurement. Are support centers measuring ticket categorization, and are they holding analysts accountable for correctly labeling tickets? In about 22 percent of organizations, correct ticket categorization is a performance metric for their analysts. An additional 21 percent measure it, but do not use it as a performance metric; 57 percent do not measure correct ticket categorization at all.


While many organizations report that their categorization structures need some TLC, even a “perfect” menu of categories can fail to serve its purpose if the support staff responsible for selecting categories is not well versed in the category definitions. Taking the proper steps to ensure staff understanding and accountability can only help ensure the success of a categorization structure and process.


Jenny Rains is HDI’s senior research analyst. Before coming to HDI, Jenny was the research/data analyst for one of the largest school districts in Colorado. Her areas of expertise include survey development, research design, data analysis, program evaluation, and project management. Jenny received her BS in psychology from Sam Houston State University and an MA in experimental psychology, with a focus on research and statistics, from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

Tag(s): process, practices and processes, metrics and measurements


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