Friday, August 12, 2011

SOP Friday: Ticket Statuses to Use and When to Use Them

This post assumes you have a PSA - professional services automation - system. That means Autotask, ConnectWise, Tiger Paw, etc. The goal of these systems is to have one place to automate your business, keep all your critical data in one place, and make you more profitable.

I am often asked whether it makes sense to have a PSA if you're a small shop. One or Two people. The answer for me is YES. You use a PSA to make everything work better, and to keep track of all the things that need to be done in your business. Those functions need to be accomplished without regard to size. The question is, how much do you pay, and is it worth it?

Once you pick a PSA, you need to create "statuses" to keep track of things. "What is the status of that ticket?" means, is it in progress, are you waiting for something, are you on hold, etc.

If you've managed databases, you've had the problem of letting everyone enter whatever they want in a field. Thus, you get

- On hold
- Hold
- held
- Holding
- Hold per Karl
- suspend
- defer
- shelve for now

. . . and that results in a field that's very hard to search on. In fact, there may be various meanings to these phrases that make it more complicated.

With a PSA system, you need a standard set of statuses that everyone agrees to . . . and that you use consistently. There should be a short list of standard statuses. Don't get too bureaucratic and try to create a perfect status for every possible scenario. Assuming the service coordinator massages the service board daily (see the September 2nd post), then it's okay to have a few oddball tickets that are just waiting on the service manager.

Here's what we do:


- Overview -

You should have as few statuses as it takes to get the job done. Every status you create will result in a layer of management, however minor. 90% of your tickets will be just a handful of statuses. So you need to focus on making those "categories" as useful as possible.

Your statuses should be as obvious as possible, and should be meaningful to both technicians and clients. For example, "waiting on parts" is easy to understand. "Pending administrative review" is meaningless babble until you define it for someone.



Your Statuses Need to Be Consistent with Your Business

I talk about the statuses we use because they represent the way we run OUR business. Your business will be different and you need to determine the statuses that will reflect the way you want to do business. If you don't already have a well-established process, then I recommend a Visio diagram of how tickets get into and out of your business.

If you have a well-established process, the ticketing system should automate that. If you don't have a process, the system should help you put one in place.


I recommend you start out with just these statuses:

- New
- Acknowledged
- Assigned
- Schedule This
- Scheduled
- In Progress
- Waiting Materials
- Waiting Results
- Waiting Customer
- Waiting Vendor
- On Hold
- Completed

If you have a backend NOC such as Zenith Infotech, then you would add a few statuses for communicating with them, such as NOC Approval Needed, NOC Approved, and NOC Not Approved. We use this format only so that all the NOC tickets can be sorted together.

Under certain circumstances, you might allow clients to update the status of tickets. We do not allow this for any tickets. When clients create tickets, they are in the "new" status. After that, all status changes are done within our company or by Zenith Infotech, our backoffice NOC.


Status Details

Now let's look a little closer at what each of these statuses mean. I know it is "mostly" obvious, but not completely obvious.


- Status: New

This is the default status assigned to all new Service Tickets. All tickets should start with this status (and should be in the Client Access queue). This triggers the PSA to send alerts to managers, etc. so we know we have a new ticket.

Once the ticket is reviewed by the Service Coordinator, an acknowledgement is sent to the client. At this point, the ticket status is changed to Acknowledged.

No Time Entries can be logged against a ticket in this status.


- Status: Acknowledged

This status indicates that the service team is aware of the new ticket and it has been assigned:
- The appropriate Priority
- An estimate of time for completion
- The appropriate Required Date
- The Issue Type
- A technician if appropriate
- The appropriate queue for further work
(see the blog post SOP Friday: Service Ticket Updates)

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA system will send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket, informing them that the status has changed.

The NOC / Back Office should not change any existing ticket to this status.

No Time Entries can be logged against a ticket in this status.


- Status: Assigned

This status indicates that the ticket has been assigned or re-assigned to a technician.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA will send an email to the tech and may optionally send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket, informing them that the status has changed.

The NOC / Back Office should not change any existing ticket to this status.


- Status: Schedule This

This status indicates that work for this ticket is ready to be Scheduled or Re-Scheduled. i.e. The parts have arrived, the end user has responded to an email, etc.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA will send an email to the Service Manager informing them that the status has changed.

Note: This is the most common status that tells a technician: You can work this ticket. We have the information, we have the parts, we have the approval, it's assigned to the right queue, it's assigned to the right service agreement, etc.

No Time Entries can be logged against a ticket in this status.


- Status: Scheduled

This status indicates that technicians have been scheduled for this ticket.

The NOC / Back Office should not change any existing ticket to this status.


- Status: In Progress

This status indicates that work is being done on the ticket and progress is being made.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA will send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket informing them that the status has changed.

In reality, this status is rarely used in our office because we have a very small staff. It is really only useful to designate that a ticket is being worked on, and therefore no other techs should work on the ticket. With a very small staff, tickets sit as "Scheduled" or "Schedule This" while working is being done.

In a perfect world, you will change a status to "In Progress" when you begin working on it, that there's no point in slavishly following that procedure if it adds nothing to the smooth working of your department.


- Status: Waiting Materials

The Wait Materials status indicates that work cannot proceed until certain software or hardware is acquired.


- Status: Waiting Results

This status indicates that the service team is waiting on results or output from work performed or changes made. For example, you may have changed a registry entry to fix a problem, and now you are waiting to determine whether you were successful.


- Status: Waiting Customer

This status indicates that the service team is waiting for input, response or work product from the client.


- Status: Waiting Vendor

This status indicates that the service team is waiting for input, response or work product from someone other than the client. i.e., Waiting on ISP or copier tech.


Note on "Waiting" statuses: Don't have too many. But you need a few. After all, you sometimes wait on parts, wait on on clients, wait for test results. Begin the statuses with the word "waiting" so that they are all sorted together when you massage the board (future topic).

For all waiting statuses, the following is true:

Within the PSA ticket, the notes section or the most recent Time Entry should contain all relevant notes indicating what you are waited on.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA will send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket informing them that the status has changed.


- Status: On Hold

This status indicates that the Service Manager has called for a hold on any work to this ticket. No one is to perform ANY work on this ticket.

Within the PSA ticket, the notes section or the most recent Time Entry should contain all relevant notes indicating what you are waited on.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA will send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket informing them that the status has changed.

The NOC / Back Office should not change any existing ticket to this status.

No Time Entries can be logged against a ticket in this status.


- Status: Completed

This status indicates that one or more of the following conditions have been met including all Time Entries and notes up to date:
- The issue outlined in the ticket has been resolved or sufficiently alleviated.
- All work outlined or required has been completed.
- The client has not responded to requests about this ticket.

When a ticket is set to this status, the PSA system will send an email to the client contact indicated in the ticket, informing them that the status has changed.

No Time Entries can be logged against a ticket in this status.

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- Implementation Notes -

You might use this list of statuses as a starting place. But I highly recommend that you put together a list of statuses that reflect your business and your standard operating procedures. You should discuss these with your team and draw out a diagram that shows how tickets flow through your business, from "New" to "Closed."

As for the actual implementation, you need to be rigorous about flipping a switch and Just Do It.

Once you agree on your statuses, you need to jump in with both feet because it's the only way you can be absolutely sure that you know where all your tickets are at any given time. If you half-use the system, then you have no system. If the service manager excludes himself from the system, then you have no system. If the newbie techs don't have to follow the system, then you have no system.

The bottom line is, if you're going to define all these statuses, how they make your business work, etc., then you need to finish the job by implementing this standard operating procedure.

One of the great advantages of a PSA system is the ticket-tracking function. But you only get those advantages if you actually use it!


Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

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Next week's topic: Setting Job Priorities


:-)



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2 comments:

  1. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the great article. I was wondering whats the difference between the Acknowledged and Schedule this status? Do tickets just flow from Acknowledeg to Schedule this? Or do you have someone actually choosing between schedule this or assigned?

    Robbert

    ReplyDelete
  2. The flow is normally from new to acknowledged. At that point the client knows that the ticket has been received and prioritized. At that point, we might be waiting on information, waiting on parts, etc. Or we might be ready to work the ticket.

    When we're ready to work the ticket, the status is changed to Schedule This. When the ticket is worked, the status goes to In Progress. If it is not closed, it then goes into a waiting status or back to Schedule This.

    So basically, whenever the ticket can be picked up and worked, the status goes to Schedule This.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Thanks for the question.

    ReplyDelete

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