Your IT department manages many issues and requests – from the mundane to mission-critical. Managing issues in a consistent and structured manner requires skilled employees, robust processes and the right set of tools to support them. IT Issue tracking software is an essential part of modern IT. It provides a means of tracking individual requests and using business rules to orchestrate support workflows, efficient user interfaces for both requesters and support agents and a consolidated set of data to enable management visibility.

IT issue tracking software is known by many alternate names. Ticketing software, helpdesk software, request management software, service desk software, incident management system and IT support software are some of the most common. While each of these technically has a unique meaning, many IT professionals use them interchangeably to refer to the system used to record and manage the reactive, transactional work that occurs within IT to keep a business up and running effectively. IT issue tracking software is a versatile set of capabilities to support a large variety of activities. It is that versatility which makes IT issue tracking software so valuable to an IT organization as a universal tool.

IT issue tracking software may be a standalone set of tools, or, more often, it is part of an integrated IT service management (ITSM) platform. While standalone tools provide ease of implementation and simplicity, most companies find integrated ITSM systems better suited to serve their long-term needs.

How Is IT Issue Tracking Software Used?

IT issue tracking software is used to keep track of all the various issues and requests encountered in supporting your company’s IT environment and business processes. While some of these issues are planned activities, most happen as a response to some sort of change or event in the business or IT environment. Some common examples of IT issues include:

Companies use IT issue tracking software to manage all these issues in a common place, using a defined set of processes and workflows. This enables issues to be routed amongst various support teams and tracked through their end-to-end lifecycle to ensure business expectations (SLAs) are being fulfilled, critical issues are given the highest priority and nothing is missed by mistake.

Who Uses IT Issue Tracking Software?

Helpdesks and IT support functions are the most common users of IT issue tracking software. These teams manage a large volume of issue requests and having the right tools helps them achieve greater productivity and efficiency. Some companies make the capabilities of their issue tracking software available to end-users through self-service portals. This enables requesters to solve some of their own issues – reducing the number of issues agents must address, lowering costs to the organization and reducing the time to resolution.

Helpdesks aren’t the only users of IT issue tracking software, though – operations teams may use this software to manage maintenance activities and service requests; IT project teams may use issue tracking software to manage defects and testing issues; change management teams may use it to ensure system releases are performed completely and safely.

IT risk management, security and governance teams may also use issue tracking software to record risks, vulnerabilities and activities that must be performed to keep the company’s IT and business environments secure and compliant with regulations. Depending on the sensitivity of issues, some organizations may have multiple IT issue tracking software tools in use to support specialized activities.

Why You Need IT Issue Tracking Software

Support is expensive

IT support is one of the largest hidden costs in most companies. While you might have a helpdesk, much of the support occurs in little pockets throughout the organization. Subject-matter experts and small teams resolve issues, without a record of either the issue or the effort expended. This leads IT management to underestimate severely the total cost of support and, simultaneously, creates a silent resource drain on the organization. IT Issue tracking software can help your IT department obtain a more complete view of your support costs.

Efficient resource allocation

With a large volume of issues being encountered every day, it is important to allocate support resources effectively. IT issue tracking software can help your IT department monitor resource capacity and skillsets and match issues to the best available resource. Complex issues can be routed to more skilled agents and simpler issues can be routed to less-costly resources at the helpdesk for resolution.

Provide high-quality services to users

IT issue management is only one part of providing high-quality technology services to users, but it is a critical part. IT issue tracking software enables your IT organization to capture the data necessary to design and implement better quality services, resolve problems impacting operational productivity and resolve issues quickly to avoid prolonged business disruption.

Continuous service improvement

Problem management is an important function of your IT organization – assessing the issues present within the IT environment, identifying root cause and recommending workarounds and long-term fixes to lessen the impact of issues and preventing their recurrence. IT issue tracking software provides problem managers with the data they need to examine issue trends, patterns and cause-and-effect relationships to identify better the problems having the greatest impact, so they can be prioritized for resolution.

Informed decision-making

IT Management has a daunting task of providing modern technology to users and ensuring service quality and performance, while also managing (reducing) IT costs. Making informed management decisions requires complete and accurate data leaders can trust. IT issue management software provides a valuable information resource to IT management – combining technical, staffing and business impact data into a single picture.

Benefits of IT Issue Tracking Software

Managing issues within your IT environment and supporting your users are some of the most important tasks that your IT staff will perform. Every issue they encounter could potentially disrupt your business, your employees and your customers – so resolving issues quickly and efficiently is important. IT issue tracking software can enable your issue management process to operate smoother, lower your support costs and help you improve the quality of service provided to your users.

All your issue data in one place

Without issue tracking software, your staff may decide to use different methods to manage their workload. Some may use spreadsheets and others may use task lists or email while others may use sticky-notes and whiteboards. This can be problematic for a few reasons. Without a centralized tracking system, some requests are likely to become lost or misplaced. Your IT staff won’t be able to collaborate effectively to resolve issues. Everyone’s current work tasks won’t be visible to management (making prioritization difficult). Most importantly, there would be no unified set of issue data to use for problem management and continuous service-improvement activities.

IT issue tracking software provides a single place to store and manage all your issue data – from when the requestor alerts you to his or her need to when it is fully resolved. Individual support agents can manage their issue workloads, management can monitor their teams and continuous-improvement teams can see the big picture of service-improvement opportunities.

Leverage standards

Issue management is a common process almost all IT organizations perform, regardless of their size or industry. Industry standards, such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), provide companies with guidelines about how to perform issue management, effectively and efficiently. Most IT departments use ITIL as a basis for many of their IT processes. IT issue tracking software leverages industry standards, such as ITIL, in pre-configured workflows and data structures for easier adoption of these standards.

Consistent user experience

Both requesters and support agents are users of issue tracking software. IT issue tracking software provides a consistent set of experiences for users, optimized to their unique needs. Requesters can log new issues, view issue status, submit notes and ask questions. Support agents can view issues, route them, log diagnostic-and-resolution activities and manage issue status. Interactions between requesters and agents, including email, phone and chat communications, are recorded as parts of the issue notes to provide a complete picture of the support interaction.

Because IT issue tracking software provides a single place to manage issues of many types and of multiple support teams, it can provide a consistent user-support experience and summarize the complexities and potential fragmentation common in IT organizations. For IT functions that leverage vendors and other 3rd parties as a part of their support model, IT issue tracking software can extend the consistent support experience throughout the support ecosystem.

Accountability for SLA compliance

Service level agreements (SLAs) are the common tool used to measure the performance of issue-management processes and set expectations with requestors about how quickly their issues will be resolved. Effective use of SLAs requires a consistent means of measuring issues as they progress through the support workflow. This is difficult to do if each team is using their own method to track the issues on which they are working.

IT issue tracking software records each step in the support workflow and with any changes in status to provide a consistent and trustworthy measure of both response times and resolution SLAs. Having a system with automated measurement removes any question of accuracy and drives accountability within the IT support organization for performance against defined SLAs.

Support workflow optimization

Perhaps, the largest benefit of IT issue tracking software is the use of business rules and system-managed workflows to drive efficiency in the issue-tracking process. This helps organizations to allocate resources more effectively, which can lead to fewer support costs. More efficient issue workflows also enable your support team to resolve issues quickly to minimize disruption to normal business operations.

Workflow-orchestration capabilities within IT issue management software can be used from-the-box for small support operations. They can also be adapted as your needs increase and change to support distributed teams, 3rd party vendor support, and global support operations. Workflows can also integrate capabilities, such as self-service support, knowledge management, automation, and machine-learning capabilities, to optimize the support process for greater efficiency.

IT Issue Tracking Software Features

Workflow orchestration

Workflow definition and orchestration are central to any issue tracking software and essential to achieve the productivity potential of your IT organization. IT issue tracking software should provide tools for defining workflows, assigning user roles, implementing business rules and integrating automated functions. As individual issue transactions are processed, the IT issue tracking software will orchestrate the support workflows, ensuring issues are routed appropriately through the support organization.

Rules engine

System-enabled support workflows are controlled through the definition and execution of business rules. IT issue tracking software should include a rules engine for combining and executing the rules your organization defines.

Customizable views

Each IT organization will have a unique organizational structure and divide issue management responsibilities differently. IT issue tracking software can enable staff productivity through customizable views targeted to the specific needs of a user group. For example, a requestor’s views might be customized to fit into the overall look and feel of your internal Websites, front-line support team views might be configured to provide 360-degree visibility to a requestor, and specialized support teams may have views configured for easy access to technical and diagnostic data.

Integration

IT issue tracking software will often be integrated with other IT systems to enable support agents’ access to other data and information. Integration provides a means to gather data from different sources to enable the user to view all the information he or she needs on a “single pane of glass.” IT issue tracking software should be capable of integrating with other tools, such as monitoring, discovery, IT Asset Management, CMDB and Software License Management systems, as well as 3rd party issue tracking systems.

Reports

Issue management is where most IT organizations spend a huge amount of money and resources, but often struggle to quantify what they are receiving for their investment. IT issue tracking software should provide a complete set of reports, dashboards, and data for analytics – supporting both real-time operations and management decision-making. Reports should be configurable to support your operational complexities and provide the views you need to enable effective support decisions.

Knowledge Management

Resolving IT issues is often a high-volume activity with many similar or recurring issues. Knowledge-management capabilities, either embedded in your IT issue tracking software or seamlessly integrated, can help your support team resolve issues quicker, share information and best practices and enable requesters to resolve issues via a self-service function.

Selecting IT Issue Tracking Software

There are many IT issue tracking software options in the marketplace – from robust, integrated ITSM platforms to simple standalone SaaS tools. Choosing the right IT issue tracking solution for your company requires balancing your immediate needs against the capability for the software to grow and change with your organization. Here are five factors to consider when selecting IT issue tracking software for your company:

Ease of Use

This is clearly the most important factor. The purpose of IT Issue tracking software is to improve the productivity of your support team. A solution that is easy to use will enable your staff to focus less on the tools and more on solving requestors’ issues.

Cost-Effective

A large selection of available features has a commensurate range of costs for IT issue tracking software. Depending on the needs of your company, you may need a simple or more robust tool. Focus on the key features you will need and ensure the solution you select serves your needs without paying for features you don’t intend to use.

Configurable Reports and Views

All IT issue tracking software comes pre-configured with some standard user views and reports. Ease-of-configuration will have a big impact on the capability of the system to evolve easily as your support functions increase.

Industry standards and best practices

ITIL is the most widely recognized standard in the IT industry. Selecting a tool that supports ITIL processes not only provides you with a pre-configured set of processes that you know will work but also enables you to leverage the experience of support staff who have learned ITIL processes at other jobs.

Scalability

As your IT organization grows and evolves, your needs for IT issue tracking software will change. Scalability considerations should include the addition of features, reconfiguration of workflows and scalable billing models. This is a tool you will be using for many years, so it is important you select one that will grow with you.

Addressing Specialized Issue Tracking Needs

It is important to keep in mind that IT issue tracking software is a generic and versatile toolset intended to support a large number of activities within your IT organization. Different parts of your IT function may have specialized needs that extend beyond the features and functions of basic issue tracking software. If this is the case, then it is usually best to start by leveraging customizable views, workflows, rules, and reports to fulfill your unique requirements. If greater specialized features are required, then consider integrating your IT issue management software with other tools while retaining the centralized set of issue data and leveraging the issue management workflows you’ve defined.

The value of IT issue management software is having all your issue data and workflows in one place where they can be centrally managed, measured and optimized. If possible, then it is best not to move individual teams into their own issue tracking system, as doing so negates the benefits you receive from having a common IT issue tracking system – such as SLA measurement, a consistent user experience, and end-to-end management transparency.

If, after exhausting configuration and customization options, you still find it necessary to move some teams onto a separate IT issue management system, then there are some actions you can take to mitigate the impacts of this choice:

IT issue management software is an essential component of your company’s IT service management tool portfolio. It provides a versatile set of capabilities that enable your staff to manage a great variety of issues, both technical and informational. IT organizations, large and small, across all industries, can benefit from using this software to manage all their IT issues in one place – providing a consistent user experience, efficient support workflows, and management insights and data to support continuous service improvement.

Selecting the right IT issue tracking software for your company requires balancing both your current needs with the ability to grow and evolve as your company’s needs change. Selecting software that is easy to use, cost-effective, customizable and leverages industry standards will enable you to implement quickly the features you need while your support teams are small and scale the capabilities as the team expands.

IT support is expensive and, for many companies, the actual total cost of supporting their business operations is hidden within disparate teams, fragmented processes, and inconsistent record-keeping. Implementing IT issue tracking software can help your company take control of your IT support costs and enable informed management decisions about resource allocation and service-improvement initiatives. The reason your company invests in IT support is to provide high-quality services to your users – IT issue tracking software can help you achieve this goal more effectively.

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