The only way to ensure IT service is to track the data. The only way to ensure you have the data is to encourage your team to take the time to document their actions.

by David Stewart
Date Published April 19, 2023 - Last Updated 8 Days, 1 Hour, 53 Minutes ago

One of probably the most fundamental principles for IT support - is thorough journaling. It can be difficult to ensure your busy team takes the time to properly document calls, but it will reduce or remove four common shortcomings of the IT support:

First, a ticket might not be raised for every call that results in a “first-time fix”. This is detrimental because service reports that track support trends require as near as complete data as possible. A statistically invalid subset means service information cannot become knowledge necessary to understand the true nature of support, which significantly hinders strategic decision-making.

Second, notes might not be added to explain what was done to resolve an incident or fulfill a request. The ticket might simply be closed even when the steps to completion should be documented but are not.

Third, if completion notes are added, they might not be adequate for others to learn from when the same situation arises again. Useful “similar incident” searches are an essential ingredient for knowledge-centered service, learning, and personal development.

Fourth, when a ticket is updated but remains open, private notes tend to be used instead of public ones. Private notes are not visible on the service portal, nor notified by email, and so requesters are left unaware that progress is being made with their ticket. Requesters are left in the dark.

The benefits don’t stop there. Here are some other reasons for teams to be good at journaling:

  • When a ticket is reassigned to a colleague or to another team, the new assignee needs to know about and fully understand all the support steps that have already been taken.
  • Similarly, for cross queue cover, when progressing a ticket that is assigned to someone else, it is necessary to know what needs to happen next.
  • When a user escalation or complaint is received, thorough notes are necessary to understand the true nature and history and to gauge an appropriate response.
  • For consistency in how service is delivered because service recipients receive an email notification to confirm their interaction with support. If this is sometimes not received because a ticket is not raised to record an interaction, the impression that recipients receive is one of inconsistency and corner-cutting from the service desk.
  • When an incident reoccurs, or if resolution is unsatisfactory, service recipients sometimes look to reopen a completed ticket. If one does not exist, the impression is again one of inconsistency and corner-cutting.
  • For auditing purposes, if there is a recurring issue. The full history of occurrence, reflected in how many tickets have been raised, or how often a ticket has been reopened, might be required to understand the end-user experience, and make a fully informed problem management decision.
  • If status-based activity prioritization is adopted, which was the topic of my last article, every time a ticket is updated with a journal, almost without exception, its status will have changed because there has been progression or a change in situation of some kind. By ensuring that teams journal everything, particularly if status prompting is configured, activity prioritization can be as accurate as it can be.

All IT divisions have a big advantage that is neither widely recognized nor taken advantage of because ITSM tools have not brought it to their customers. For many support teams, almost everything that’s done during the day involves service tickets. A team member’s entire contribution at work is recorded in journals. Of course, attentive service requires adequate levels of activity. More ticket journals correspond with faster, better service outcomes.

The same cannot be said for tickets closed, which is the usual measure of support team performance. Tickets are often closed when activity has been inadequate or absent, due mainly to an absence of activity prioritization.

Journal-based contribution recognition forms a virtuous circle, because accurate performance knowledge more than doubles employee engagement. This is a fact that is born-out in research by Gallup, and my own experience of putting it in place. Contribution recognition can be expected to encourage more journaling – more activity – because it is the thing that feeds managerial recognition.

David Stewart is head of Opimise. 

Tag(s): supportworld, support models, technology

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