Friday, May 11, 2012

SOP Friday: Service Board Backlog Management

With luck, you are very busy with lots of service requests. If not, I hope you will be soon!
When you have a busy service board, it is important to make sure that you don't lose something "between the cracks." Here's a process to take care of that and then attack any boacklog that may exist. Please note: A backlog is not bad! It's better to know that all your techs are busy than to have pockets of inactivity.

This process is to be completed by the Tech Support Manager/Service Manager or the Service Coordinator. It should be somebody that can make decisions to re-allocate resources to get tickets un-stuck and moving toward completion.

The Service Board needs constant attention, but the complete process of prioritizing, assigning and scheduling resources really needs to be done at most two or three times a week. Early Monday AM is a must and toward the end of the week is good to help bring the next week into focus. See Massaging the Service Board.

Since all SR’s are to be acknowledged within a set time of creation during business hours, that process is at the top of the to-do list.

Note: When new service requests enter the system (created by clients or your technicians), you need to always go through the process described in the SOP Friday article "Service Ticket Updates."

Basically, the goal is that that service coordinator - and everyone who touches the ticket - needs to verify the ticket title, priority, work type, service agreement, etc. Here's the result of that process: Every time you touch an SR, you update as many fields as possible. So, the next time you refine your search in an attempt to reveal SRs needing attention, you actually find fewer tickets that need attention.

What you'll see in a minute is that we use a variety of sorting methods to view all the tickets. The reason for reviewing the entire list of SRs after changing the sort order is to be sure that you have a complete understanding of the overall workload on your company and the needs of the clients. If the list is viewed in several different ways this will become apparent.

While reviewing SRs, request a Status update from the assigned tech(s) on any SR that is believed to either be in the wrong status, incomplete, or has incorrect information.

Don't Be Overwhelmed

If you don't regularly massage your service board or review tickets, you might have a huge number of tickets that need to be cleaned up. If you have totally neglected your service board, it might take you a whole business day to go through this the first time. But four days later, it will be much cleaner and easier.

The following Monday, this process will actually be pretty fast. The is due in large part to the fact that you've now touched every ticket in the system at least once in the previous seven days and you know which ticket are correct and don't need to be evaluated again.

The first time you go through this, be sure to read each step very carefully and do exactly what it says. After you've gone through the process 3-4 times, you'll get by with just a checklist that says
- Acknowlege New Tickets
- Review Completed Tickets
- Sort by Priority
- Sort by Age
- Sort by Hours
- Sort by Status
- Schedule Work

Eventually, this will become second nature, you will have a very good handle on your board, and it will take less than half an hour.

Note also that the first time you go through this process, you will move many tickets to "Closed" or "Completed" status. You'll re-prioritize a lot of tickets. You will probably combined some tickets into one. And you'll set reasonable time budgets for all tickets.

That will be a huge relief and greatly diminish your perceived backlog. Through this process, you'll learn about your PSA system, how tickets flow through your system, and what you need your technicians to do better.

Of course you will fine-tune this process based on your ticket statuses and procedures. This is a place to start.

Tackling the Ticket Backlog

Step One: Open the Service Board and review the Primary Sort. Our Service Board is set up with a default sort of "By Status." With this, you can determine which status you want first, second, third, etc. We have the system put "New" status on the top, followed by:

- Acknowledged
- Assigned
- Schedule This
- Scheduled
- In Progress
- Waiting . . . (Results, materials, customer, vendor)
- Customer Reply
- On Hold
- Completed

Step Two: Acknowledge each New Service Request as detailed in the Acknowledging New SRs procedure.

Step Three: Review all SRs in the Completed Status. Tune up these SRs as follows:
- Verify that everything is in order and update as necessary
- Review the time entries and other pertinent information
- Pay close attention to all time entries and the Service Agreement applied to the ticket. These determine whether the work will be billed or not.
- Change the status to Completed when all fields and notes have been updated

Step Four: Sort the Board by Priority (Highest to Lowest) and review the entire list of SRs.
- Review the entire list to verify correct priority
- Pay close attention to the age of high priority SRs and why they are getting older
- Update other fields as necessary

Step Five: Sort the Board by Age and review the entire list of SRs.
- On Mondays (or the first day of the week) pay close attention to SRs that are 0 to 3 days old as they have come in over the weekend and need to be addressed right away.
- Verify that any SR over 60 days old is at Priority 3. Update other fields as necessary.
- Verify that any SR over 90 days old is at Priority 2. Update other fields as necessary.

Step Six: Sort the Board by Budget Hours and review all SRs with a Budget of 0 hours remaining.
- Estimate and update the Budgeted Hours
- Update other fields as necessary
- Starting from the bottom of the list (largest budget hours) review all SRs that are over budget.
- Update other fields as necessary

Step Seven: Sort the Board by Status again and review all SRs in the following order. Scrutinize the status and update as necessary.
- In Progress - Verify the status is still valid and update as needed. Is it moving forward right now?
- Scheduled - Only items with a status of Scheduled that have a scheduled date in the past need to be reviewed. It is most important that if the schedule was missed or moved that it be re-scheduled immediately. If necessary, determine why the SR was not worked when scheduled.
- Acknowledged - These tickets need to be moved to Assigned, Scheduled, or some other status that will move them forward.
- On Hold - Only the Service Manager can place a ticket on hold. This basically means that no one should work on the ticket until further notice. If there are tickets on hold, determine whether this is still appropriate. For example, if you are waiting for a payment from the client, you might leave a ticket on hold.

Step Eight: Assign tickets to technicians and schedule work that needs to be done on a specific day or at a specific time.
- If status is Schedule This: Work from highest priority to lowest and from oldest to newest. It is the best practice to schedule the technician who is already assigned to the SR if the work is an ongoing issue that would not easily be passed from one technician to another.
- Sort the Board by Required Date. Verify that all tickets with a due date approaching are assigned to a technician so we don't miss the required target.

There are no specific forms for implementing this SOP. You should write up a brief checklist, based on what we've presented here. Everyone who might be called upon to go through this process should do it at least once with a supervisor before being left to do it on their own.

Your Comments Welcome.

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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

Next week's topic: Technician Daily Time Management


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