A Guide to IT Ticketing Systems: Stages, Benefits and More

The IT ticketing process is a proven model for successfully addressing the maintenance and evolution of IT systems. Learn how IT ticketing can help your organization.

Updated July 6, 2020

When you encounter technical issues at work, who do you turn to for help? The team goes by different names: help desk, customer support desk, IT (Information Technology) support, service desk. They are the technology experts who solve the system issues at a company.

Their key tool is an IT ticketing system. It’s the linchpin enabling help desk to assist internal and external customers efficiently and in a timely manner. Every organization with a help desk requires a ticketing system.

Overview: What is an IT ticketing system?

IT support needs increase as a company grows and expands its technology use. To effectively deliver that support, IT teams require a means of tracking tasks and ensuring timely issue resolution. The IT ticketing system serves that purpose.

It’s a software platform that captures the technical issues, user requests, and IT tasks that crop up daily in a document called a ticket. Each ticket serves as a repository to store information needed to complete IT work.

Tickets also record communication between the IT team and stakeholders invested in the outcome of the ticket, such as the person reporting a system issue. As the help desk staff works a ticket, they provide updates through the ticket. Task progress is tracked in this way to completion.

Types of IT tickets

IT tickets address a variety of areas, so it’s helpful to categorize them. Categorization allows your IT organization to route tickets to the appropriate staff, streamline workflows, and to track trends.

Your IT team categorizes tickets based on your business needs. Some popular types of IT ticket categories include the following.

Feature requests: When your IT services lack a feature that can benefit users or grow the business, that feature is collected in a feature request ticket. Feature requests highlight what’s needed and why, and can come from customers or anywhere within the organization.

Incidents: An incident is an IT term referring to an unplanned disruption to an IT system. This could stem from a bug, an IT term for an issue that prevents a system from performing its job as originally intended, or external factors such as a criminal trying to hack the system. Incident tickets capture the issues so the IT team can take steps to fix it. IT teams that adopt the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework, which defines best practices for running an IT organization, can find suggestions for implementing incident management within the ITIL processes.

Maintenance and service requests: IT systems require routine maintenance. Its users also have needs such as resetting account passwords. When users need help, it’s referred to as a service request. Tickets in this category track the maintenance and other routine tasks the IT team must perform.

Lines of business or teams: If your company offers multiple products or tasks are frequently split between different IT teams, such as hardware versus software groups, categorizing tickets by lines of business or teams helps to streamline workflows and resolve issues faster.

Benefits of using an IT ticketing system

Why is an IT ticketing system worth the investment? The business benefits more than offset the costs of IT help desk software.

1. Improved customer satisfaction

Sooner or later customers encounter technical issues. Even critical services like internet access experience outages from time to time.

Customers can accept this if technical issues are resolved in a timely manner. IT ticketing ensures this happens.

Tickets enable the IT team to track and prioritize issues, and resolve them efficiently. Ticketing systems reduce items falling through the cracks. With timely resolution, customers are happier with your IT services, and are more likely to continue doing business with you.

2. Higher team productivity

Ticketing systems make IT teams more productive. Every IT task’s details are centralized in the ticket, including documents, screenshots, and other supplemental material required to get the work done.

A robust IT ticketing system automates routine tasks and makes it easier to search for tickets, reminders, and reports that deliver insights to further improve an IT team’s productivity.

3. Meet business obligations

Companies establish service commitments to customers and third parties as part of doing business. These service level agreements (SLAs) commit the company to obligations around timely resolution of technical issues.

IT ticketing systems provide the tools to achieve SLAs. Streamlined workflows, centralized data, and task automation contribute to the team’s ability to work quickly and meet SLAs. Also, many IT ticket systems offer reports that show how well the team is meeting its business obligations.

Stages of the IT ticketing system

The ticket handling workflow depends on the needs of your organization. The following stages outline a typical process flow for IT tickets.

Stage 1: Log tickets

The first step is the logging of an issue, request, or task into the ticketing system. Tickets originate from various sources. A customer or employee can inform IT staff of an issue or request. The IT team can identify work requiring completion, such as maintenance tasks.

This information must enter the ticketing system. You can streamline this step by providing the ticketing system to internal and external users so that customers and employees can submit tickets directly.

Many ticketing systems allow users to send an email, which the system automatically turns into a ticket, reducing manual entry.

Once a ticket enters the system, the help desk staff serve as the frontline IT team members who communicate with users about their tickets. The IT help desk examines each ticket, deciding who needs to work on it.

At this point, the ticket is categorized, prioritized, and assigned to the appropriate person. If help desk personnel can solve the issue themselves, such as resetting a user’s password, they will do so.

Stage 2: Take action

Tickets are routed to the IT team member capable of resolving the situation. Sometimes tasks are quickly completed. Other times, the immediate action is to ask for additional details.

In my IT experience, the challenge lies in the user’s general description of an incident, like "the software stopped working." To troubleshoot the problem, IT teams need more details.

IT systems are complex, and any number of factors can cause incidents, from using an outdated version of the software to trying to execute a task the system wasn’t designed for.

It’s important to take action in a reasonable timeframe, usually within 24 hours. Many IT ticketing systems automatically send a confirmation email indicating that a ticket was received along with the timeframe for a response to set the proper expectations with users.

Stage 3: Monitor and escalate

Some tickets may languish waiting for a user to respond to the help desk’s request for more info. That’s why the IT team must monitor unresolved tickets to ensure they reach resolution in a reasonable timeframe.

Many IT ticketing systems flag tickets that are still outstanding and provide reports such as the average time taken to close tickets. If a ticket requires time to resolve, communication must go out to ticket stakeholders so they aren’t left wondering what’s going on.

If a ticket isn’t getting addressed in a reasonable timeframe, the help desk team is empowered to escalate the ticket to a manager or another team to bring additional focus on the ticket and expedite resolution.

Stage 4: Close and optimize

The help desk communicates resolution to stakeholders when work on a ticket concludes, then closes the ticket. But that’s not the end of it.

IT teams gain insights into operational improvements by spending time to review ticket resolution performance. Were tickets addressed within SLAs? Did customers feel satisfied with the outcome? Do you see trends that point to systemic problems?

If so, ITIL outlines problem management steps that address these before they become big issues.

Employ an ongoing review meeting at regular intervals to collect learnings. Use the IT ticketing system’s built-in reports to perform data analysis helpful in continually optimizing team performance.

Final words about IT ticketing systems

The IT ticketing system is the backbone for effectively addressing customer and company needs. Many IT ticketing software options exist. Examine your company’s requirements, such as the extent of automation you’re looking for, then match the tool to those requirements.

With a ticketing system that meets your needs, your IT team can boost effectiveness, streamline workflows, and help the organization succeed.

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The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.