Last updated on: Sep 20, 2022
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, organizations worldwide are transitioning to a mix of remote and in-office work. In this new normal, IT service desk teams face a great deal of challenges, both novel and mundane. They need to find balance between supporting day-to-day ticketing operations and driving enterprise-scale IT projects.
In the absence of an effective ticketing system, IT service desk teams may end up blindsided regarding the context of an incident, its priority, or the person who submitted the ticket. This may lead to a drop in help desk productivity and suboptimal employee experiences.
A well-crafted enterprise ticketing system can help service desk teams cut the clutter and resolve incidents and support requests faster. In this guide, we will go over how an IT ticketing system works, the features you need to look for in a ticketing solution, and the best practices that will help elevate your service desk's efficiency.
What is a ticketing system?
Before we define what a ticketing system is, let's first understand what is a ticket.
Consider these scenarios:
- You are unable to access your organization's VPN, so you decide to make a phone call to your friend in the IT department.
- You are an HR associate in charge of onboarding new employees. You shoot an email over to the IT department requesting new devices and software.
- An alert is triggered in your organization's network monitoring system, indicating that several of your servers are down.
In these situations, the IT department receives internal support requests through different channels. The support queries received by the IT department from these channels are structured and managed in the form of tickets.
A ticket is a document or record maintained in a central repository or a ticketing system by the IT department. It may represent an incident, a request for service, or even an alert or event triggered by computer systems.
A ticket created in ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus
A ticket provides your IT service desk team with contextual information on the support request, along with other identifiers such as status, priority, and ticket category. These ticket parameters help your IT service desk manage their ticket queue better.
The ticket also contains a history of communication between the requester and the IT technician working to resolve the reported issue.
Incoming tickets submitted using ticket forms or templates may also offer more accurate information on an incident or a service request.
Tickets typically originate from three sources:
- Employees or end users: They can raise tickets through different channels, such as sending emails, making phone calls, or filling out web forms.
- IT support agents: Agents can raise tickets on behalf of end users or for different ITSM processes, such as problem, change, or project management.
- Automated systems: Network monitoring tools can automatically generate tickets based on alerts triggered during specific events, such as malware detection or website downtime.
In SMBs, employees may simply walk up to an IT technician to report an issue or request a service. Such organizations, with smaller support teams, may use a support email system, a spreadsheet, or even a homegrown ticketing system to track tickets and resolve issues.
However, as organizations scale, these legacy solutions do not cut it for help desk teams. Relying on emails or spreadsheets to track and resolve tickets may quickly turn tiresome, create bottlenecks, and impact efficiency, which may stonewall strategic IT projects.
Overview of a ticketing system
The IT ticketing system acts as the single point of contact between end users and the IT service provider. It helps service desk teams consolidate support requests from different channels into tickets, store them, and manage them centrally.
The ticketing system also helps categorize, prioritize, and assign these tickets according to preset policies, ensuring that service desk teams stay efficient and organized.
A crucial advantage that ticketing systems offer is the ability to automate several mundane and repetitive tasks, such as ticket categorization, technician assignment and escalations, sending ticket updates to end users, or closing resolved issues. These automations ensure that support agents need not worry about the everyday nitty-gritty and can work efficiently.
All conversations with the end user can also be documented within the ticketing system, helping technicians be context-aware when tickets are assigned or escalated to them.
Larger enterprises may leverage a ticketing system to receive and manage the support tickets of different departments such as HR, legal, payroll, and facilities. They may also rely on an ITSM platform, which includes problem management, change management, and IT asset management.
Depending on the requirements, enterprises can host the ticketing system on-premises or in the cloud. A ticketing system is also referred to as a help desk ticketing system, support ticket system, or ticket management system.
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What are the capabilities of help desk ticketing software?
Vendors usually offer ticketing systems either as a standalone tool or as part of a broader ITSM platform. Most modern solutions come packed with an array of ticketing capabilities, including but not limited to:
- A central repository to store and manage tickets.
- The ability to convert incoming support emails to tickets.
- Intelligent routing, categorization, and prioritization.
- A user-friendly self-service portal for end users to log and track tickets, browse knowledge articles, and use other self-service capabilities.
- Comprehensive workflow builders to craft custom automations.
- Graphical dashboards for real-time reporting and analytics.
- Live chat and virtual chatbots.
- Native and third-party integrations with business and IT management apps.
How does an IT ticketing system work?
Let's discuss how a service desk ticketing system helps resolve an incident ticket efficiently.
A business analyst working for a financial services company faces an issue with his VPN credentials that affects his work. He shoots an email to the sysadmin, with the subject "VPN issues."
The service desk team at the analyst's company uses a ticketing system that automatically converts incoming emails addressed to the sysadmin into incident tickets. Once the ticketing system records the issue, the service desk team must triage it to determine its priority. The ticketing system automatically assigns a priority to the ticket based on its urgency and the impact it has on the end user.
Tickets are automatically created from incoming emails in ServiceDesk Plus.
Most ticketing solutions come equipped with a priority matrix that determines the priority of an incoming ticket based on the ticket parameters. Here's an example of a priority matrix in ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus.
Priority matrix in ServiceDesk Plus
Once the ticketing system categorizes and prioritizes the analyst's ticket, it assigns the ticket to a support agent available online for troubleshooting. The ticketing system may assign technicians to incoming tickets based on either the ticket parameters or based on the workload and availability of agents.
Automation rules in ticketing systems help route tickets to support agents based on algorithms like round-robin or load-balancing.
Technician assignment rules in ServiceDesk Plus help you balance your ticket queue and technician availability better.
The ticketing system applies the right SLA to the ticket based on predefined automation rules. A service-level agreement (SLA) is an agreement between the service provider and the consumer, defining the service delivery targets and escalation mechanisms for violations.
Different services and incident workflows have varied SLA targets. Therefore, it is vital to create service-specific SLAs that are realistic. Your SLAs act as benchmarks against which service desk teams evaluate KPIs and other metrics.
Modern ticketing systems like ServiceDesk Plus also offer automated proactive escalation capabilities that help you steer clear of SLA violations.
SLA automation and escalation rules in ServiceDesk Plus
Once assigned, the agent works to resolve the ticket within the specified SLA mandate. If required, the agent may escalate the ticket to a specialist support group for resolution. The technician contacts the analyst from within the ticketing system and requests more information on the issue.
Meanwhile, throughout this entire life cycle, the business analyst is automatically notified of all the updates to his ticket. He can also track the progress of the ticket from within the self-service portal.
The integrated self-service portal in ServiceDesk Plus
After receiving sufficient information from the requester, the technician identifies the appropriate fix or work-around and shares it with the analyst. Once the issue is resolved, the technician closes the ticket and triggers a survey to ascertain the effectiveness of the resolution and the analyst's experience in using the ticketing system.
A user-satisfaction survey form in ServiceDesk Plus
The data collected from this survey is used to build detailed reports and dashboards that provide deep insights into the performance of the IT service desk team. Furthermore, IT administrators can rely on these insights to make informed decisions and devise better service desk strategies.
Ticket life cycle
Orchestrate seamless support with the best-in-class IT ticketing system.
4 reasons why your organization needs a ticketing system
Investing in the right IT ticketing system unlocks many benefits for your IT service desk team, your employees, and ultimately for your business. If done right, implementing a ticketing system can translate into significant savings in the form of time and money.
Even today, email remains the leading channel of choice for end users to report issues to their IT help desk.
As businesses scale, managing tens or hundreds of tickets from a support inbox can quickly spiral into a productivity nightmare for IT administrators. This is where a ticketing system steps in, freeing up your IT talent to tackle strategic issues without sweating over trivial tickets.
1. Acts as a central repository for storing and managing tickets
In the absence of a ticketing system, IT service desks may struggle to gain visibility into their tickets because they are scattered across different tools. Tickets created through multiple channels, like emails, phone calls, or walk-ins, may fall through the cracks as they are stored and managed across siloed systems and applications.
A ticketing system helps service desk teams bridge these gaps by acting as a central repository for all tickets. Using native mailbox capabilities and third-party integrations with collaboration tools, IT service desks can turn the ticketing system into their command center for service management.
2. Boosts your help desk productivity
An effective IT ticketing system helps service desk teams improve their productivity by automating routine and mundane tasks.
For example, automation rules in ServiceDesk Plus help direct a ticket to the right IT support group based on the subject of an email or based on other predefined conditions.
These condition-based rules help IT help desks perform a whole lot of ticketing actions without the need for human intervention. Consequently, technicians can focus their efforts on resolving the underlying issues, reducing turnaround time, and delivering a better service experience to the end user.
An effective knowledge base that enables end users to troubleshoot issues themselves helps service desk teams reduce the creation of trivial tickets. This, in turn, puts more time in the hands of IT technicians to initiate complex and strategic IT projects.
Business rules in ServiceDesk Plus help automate repetitive tasks.
3. Helps you deliver delightful employee experiences
An IDC survey has thrown light on the importance of employee experiences and their bearing on customer experience and satisfaction. A whopping 85% of the respondents mentioned that an improved employee experience and higher employee engagement translate to a better customer experience.
IT service desks are the primary touchpoint for employees to report issues and request services. Effective ticketing software helps service desk teams deliver a consumer-grade experience to their end users and streamlines the process of issue resolution.
The IT ticketing system also enables employees to reach out to the help desk from multiple channels of their choice. All conversations with the end user are captured within the ticket, enabling IT technicians to deliver a personalized support experience.
Modern ticketing tools come equipped with enhanced SLA capabilities that ensure a ticket is resolved within the specified timeline.
4. Offers rich insights into your service desk operations
By implementing an IT ticketing system, organizations can leverage the data churned by it to extract deep insights into the functioning of their IT help desk.
From a business standpoint, an IT ticketing system acts as a single source of truth that may help CIOs identify recurring incidents and points of failure and initiate strategic IT initiatives.
Deliver a streamlined service experience with ServiceDesk Plus.
Choose the right service desk ticketing system
While a ticketing system may offer multi-fold advantages to your organization, it is contingent on you to implement it effectively to realize these benefits.
With hundreds of enterprise IT vendors offering solutions ranging from simple ticketing systems to comprehensive ITSM platforms, you need to identify the right fit for your service desk operations.
We recommend you perform a systematic audit to determine your IT maturity, size and scale of operations, and unique requirements before starting the hunt for the right solution. Failing to nail down the right ticketing solution for your IT help desk may result in a complex implementation and reduced ROI.
Here are a few tips for identifying the right software for your enterprise:
Flexible deployment options
Ticketing solutions may be hosted on-premises or in the cloud, depending on the choice of the organization. Many factors influence these decisions, such as regulatory compliance, IT budgets, and privacy laws.
Moreover, post pandemic, many organizations around the globe are migrating their on-premises applications to the cloud for ease of access and administration.
Therefore, it is essential to choose a ticketing solution vendor that offers flexible deployment options and seamless migration plans.
Adherence to best-practice frameworks
ITIL®, owned by Axelos, is a best-practice framework for IT service management that helps organizations align IT services with business objectives. ITIL 4, the latest iteration, comprises 34 management practices that can be defined as sets of organizational resources designed to achieve the desired goal.
While it is not a standard, ITIL is a widely accepted framework for ITSM due to its high success rates in organizations that adopt it.
Ticketing solutions that offer capabilities to implement ITIL best practices are defined as "ITIL-compatible." Such ITIL-compatible ticketing solutions may help you implement processes that are more efficient and productive.
In addition to ITIL, look out for tools that align with other industry best practices and frameworks such as COBIT, Val IT, and ISO 27000.
Native and third-party integrations with enterprise applications
Your business may rely on several IT and business applications for other enterprise operations. For example, your organization may use Slack or Microsoft Teams as the primary productivity and collaboration solution.
In such cases, your IT ticketing system needs to seamlessly integrate with these tools to act as a collaborative channel for your end users and IT technicians.
Additionally, native or third-party integrations with ITOM tools help your IT service desk team better manage your organization's network, servers, and endpoints. IT support technicians can quickly identify the root cause of issues and resolve tickets faster instead of having to juggle multiple applications.
Compliance with data protection regulations
With the enforcement of several data privacy and security laws across the globe, organizations need to comply with them in all aspects of their business operations, including IT support and service.
Ticketing systems comprise several pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) belonging to employees. Such information needs to be encrypted and anonymized in case the employee leaves the organization.
Thus, a ticketing system needs to offer these critical capabilities and also comply with privacy regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA, and LGPD.
Best practices to maximize the ROI from your support ticket system
Here's a list of industry-standard best practices that will help your service desk team deliver remarkable employee experiences, elevate productivity, and contribute value to your business.
Promote self-service adoption
"The best IT ticket is the one that is not created!" - A wise service desk manager
Fostering self-service adoption in your organization helps end users resolve trivial issues by themselves. By providing ample self-service capabilities, you can reduce the number of L1 tickets being created, thereby reducing the ticket load on your IT technicians.
This translates to increased productivity and greater availability of support technicians for troubleshooting critical incidents and undertaking IT projects.
To realize the potential benefits of self-service, you need to implement a comprehensive self-service portal with a user-friendly knowledge base. The self-service portal should be accessible from different platforms such as mobile applications, tablet computers, or webpages.
Automate repetitive tasks
One way of reducing the turnaround time associated with tickets is to automate repetitive tasks such as categorization, technician assignment, and approvals.
Keeping end users in the loop with automated notifications further enhances the ticket resolution process as they will not badger your technicians with calls or emails or create duplicate tickets.
By automating these routine and tedious jobs, you can free up your talent pool to focus on what they do best: resolving tickets.
Keep tabs on metrics that matter
One of the significant advantages that a ticketing system offers is the ability to dive deep into the enormous amount of data churned from tickets. By analyzing the KPIs and performance trends of IT technicians, IT administrators can design new strategies or build on existing ones to refine the service experience.
IT service desk teams also need to create and trigger periodic user satisfaction surveys to ensure that their service management strategies are bearing fruit. By leveraging the survey data, IT administrators can periodically perform corrective actions.
Here's a list of KPIs and metrics that you need to keep tabs on.
- Time to resolve tickets
- Cost per ticket
- First-call resolution rate
- Technician productivity
- Rate of SLA breaches
- Employee satisfaction scores
- Rate of reopening of tickets
- Tickets resolved using knowledge articles
- Tickets deflected using knowledge articles
Institute water-tight SLA policies
SLAs determine your employee expectations about service delivery upfront. In addition to enforcing service-level targets, SLAs need to provide proper escalation mechanisms in case of SLA violations.
We recommend you adopt a proactive escalation process wherein the ticket is assigned to a specialist technician well before the SLA resolution target is violated. This way, your IT service desk can prevent SLA breaches while sustaining employee satisfaction.
Ticketing systems vs. ITSM platforms
Pure-play IT ticketing systems are an excellent starting point for organizations that lack one or work with legacy tools. But as your IT processes mature, your organization needs to manage a plethora of IT assets, roll out periodic changes to its infrastructure, and, of course, troubleshoot those recurring incident tickets.
This may lead to your organization acquiring additional tools—unless there is one platform to manage your ticketing, ITOps, and service management.
This is where ITSM steps in.
IT service management is an overarching concept on how organizations need to manage the end-to-end delivery of IT services. It comprises practices to design, build, and deliver IT services effectively.
ITSM platforms help organizations manage their IT services by enabling them to perform ticketing operations, manage IT assets, undertake IT projects, and roll out changes and releases, all from a single console.
Orchestrate complex ticketing workflows in minutes.
AI and machine learning in IT ticketing systems
The digital experiences of employees in their lives have come to shape their expectations about service management within the organization or enterprise.
With the adoption of AI-enabled chatbots and ML algorithms across customer engagement channels, IT vendors realized the potential benefits of introducing self-service chatbots and AI capabilities in their ticketing solutions.
Gartner® has identified virtual support agents as one of the enhancements that differentiate ITSM offerings in its 2021 Magic Quadrant™ for ITSM Tools. This high-tech disruption can help IT service desk teams shift-left tickets on a large scale and imbue their service desks with increased productivity.
Chatbots powered by NLP, AI-powered predictive analytics, and process optimization techniques are some of the capabilities you need to look out for in your ticketing system to future-proof your IT operations.
The ServiceDesk Plus platform
ServiceDesk Plus is the full-stack IT ticketing suite from ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation. Built on industry-recommended ITSM best practices, ServiceDesk Plus comes packed with contextual IT and business integrations that help IT service desk teams better align with their organization's business objectives.
The graphical workflow builder in ServiceDesk Plus helps IT administrators craft ticketing and business process automations in minutes, with end-to-end customization.
With its native enterprise service management capabilities and unrestricted extensibility offered through low-code scripting, organizations can fit ServiceDesk Plus to their IT maturity with ease.
Forrester's Total Economic Impact™ study finds that enterprises that invest in ServiceDesk Plus experience up to a 352% ROI over three years. ManageEngine was also recognized by Gartner® in its 2021 Magic Quadrant™ for ITSM Tools for its completeness of vision and ability to execute.
For more than 15 years, ServiceDesk Plus has provided solutions to millions of IT folks, end users, and stakeholders.
ServiceDesk Plus offers enterprises a three-year ROI of up to 352%
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
A ticketing system, in the context of IT, is software that helps IT departments receive, track, manage, and resolve issues faced by their employees. IT ticketing systems help IT teams automate ticketing processes such as categorization and prioritization, ticket distribution, knowledge article suggestions, and stakeholder communications.
The best type of IT ticketing system software does one thing: help technicians and end users save time and be productive while offering significant cost savings for the organization.
Some of the attributes of such software include:
- An easy-to-use and intuitive interface.
- Omni-channel ticketing that ensures no ticket is forgotten.
- Powerful automations that eliminate manual ticketing actions.
- Visual workflows that help standardize ITSM processes.
- Robust self-service and knowledge management capabilities.
- Automated reports and dashboards for data-driven decisions.
- User satisfaction surveys to quantify the employee experience.
- Extensive integrations into IT and business applications.
ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus checks all these boxes when it comes to helping IT teams with supporting their workforces.
With over 15 years of experience in IT service management and helping hundreds of thousands of IT service desks in optimizing their ticketing workflows, ServiceDesk Plus comes packed with future-proof ticketing capabilities such as low-code IDE, enterprise service management, AI and ML-based automations, and a virtual chatbot. It can help your organization unify ticketing, IT asset management, change enablement, release management, and project management on a single platform.
Note: Enterprises investing in ServiceDesk Plus experience a three-year ROI of up to 352% with a payback period of fewer than six months!
An IT ticketing system works by bringing every issue and service request raised by employees across different channels such as emails, self-service portals, mobile apps, chatbots, and phone calls into a single, centralized system automatically.
Once the IT service desk records a ticket in its ticketing system, automations kick in and accelerate routine actions such as categorization, prioritization, and assignment. These automated actions help IT teams identify which category the incoming ticket falls under and route it to a technician or a group that is adept at solving issues of that category.
Now, not all tickets require the immediate attention of the IT service desk. So, IT ticketing systems use a priority matrix to evaluate which tickets are the top priority. The priority is also typically used to apply the right service level agreements.
Every conversation with the end user, no matter the channel, is held within the ticket, helping retain context even when the ticket gets reassigned or escalated to a different technician.
Finally, once the technician resolves the issue, the resolution is added to a knowledge base within the ticketing system, helping accelerate the resolution of future tickets or even preventing their creation with self-service.
Reports and dashboards in IT ticketing systems help IT managers with regular reviews of their teams' performance and end-user experiences. These dashboards help derive actionable insights that can elevate the operational efficiency of the IT service desks.
About the author
Siddharth G is a product marketer at ManageEngine. He specializes in driving marketing campaigns and customer education programs for ManageEngine's flagship ITSM platform, ServiceDesk Plus. Over the past three years, Siddharth has hosted various masterclass and thought leadership webinars addressing specific ITSM challenges that organizations face and the best practices to overcome them. He has also authored educational guides on IT ticketing systems and service request management.
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