Get your priorities straight! | @valorizeit

I will never forget my first really bad support phone call. A manager in the client organization, I was a consultant, called and wanted to escalate his problem. This guy could not print his reports and was flying to another country the next day, his call was of absolute highest possible priority and the manager told me my job was on the line. Imagine a 26 year old, freshly graduated, super motivated, recently hired and now extremely nervous. Little did I know that this guy was no manager, his reports was nothing more than some in-flight reading for him. For me it was life or death.

The best effort, or even worst, he who scream loudest gets the best service, is extremely contra productive and will bleed out your service desk organization.

What you need, ladies and gentlemen, is a simple, extremely clear and very well established way of prioritizing your support tickets, I am of course thinking about your incidents and requests. Wait a second, let’s leave the requests out of this, these should be treated in the same process flow, but are subject to other rules of prioritization, have other resolution times and so on, I will return to this bad boys in a later blog post. Ok, we were talking about incidents.

A well-established way to prioritize incidents, based on impact and urgency, is pure survival for the IS/IT service provider.

First of all, it is not a good idea to simply define a priority scale, for example 1-3, where 1 is high priority and 3 are low. Because there is, about 3434343 different ways to define what is high/medium/low and you will immediately find your service desk in trouble using this approach. You need to define the impact and urgency, and listen carefully now ladies and gentlemen, the priority needs to be a calculated value from these two.

IMPACT: What is the effect of an incident to your business organization/processes/agreed service levels, often in terms of number of users and to what extent (disturbing/preventing/blocking) this incident will cause harm.

URGENCY: This is a measure of the time aspect, for example how fast the damage caused by this incident is increasing, also how time critical affected processes/services/users are. Roughly translated, this is how much we are bleeding.

Now, we can have incident with the highest impact, for example my example, this “manager” could not print his “important” reports, but it was only him and after all it was not that important. Few users affected or an incident that might be blocking but not urgent. The overall temperature for an incident will be based on a very simple table.


This means that the questions we ask the users, or have them include in the incident reporting form, will give us the input needed to understand the impact and the urgency, and those two will provide us with a priority. Now the really important part.

It does not matter if we have the best, smartest, most good-looking priority matrix in the whole solar system, it absolutely needs to be well established in the business organization, and this is what is absolutely crucial.

We absolutely need to perform a good alignment with the business and they need to be onboard, and the matrix has to be well known and accepted in the end user community, otherwise we might as well just give them the traditional number. When contacting the service desk the person need to be aware of how things work this to manage the expectations. This is the key to have a calm and structured relationship between the user community and the Service Desk, everyone are aware of the rules. Of course there will always be exceptions, special conditions but at least these will be in the last 20% in the 80-20 rule, instead of the opposite, we can manage four of five incidents with a defined time scale, without having an angry user calling us for progress every 5 minutes.

I am probably going to use the word calibration in most of my blog posts, since I am a huge fan, in everything we do we need to use the appropriate resources to ensure a successful outcome.

Ok, that is it for me this time, I hope you now have some ideas about how to improve the working conditions for the service desk AND greatly evolve the relationship between IT and the business.

Stay smart people!


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