Service Desk Challenge: Real World Business Prioritization

by Markos Symeonides, on 22-Jun-2020 15:00:00

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This is article 4 in a series of 8. Go to number 1 in the series here.

The Challenge

Businesses are dependent on technology, so the role of the service desk is critical to end user productivity and business performance. But not all IT services are of equal value to the business, and the service desk has finite time and resources to tackle problems. So how can you prioritize work, when you can’t do it all? How do you know which are the most important issues from the business perspective?

IT’s own priority matrices—based on notions of relative impact and urgency—are somewhat rough-and-ready. Although these priority codes will allow the service desk to rank incidents in some order of priority, they mean little to business people. They cannot readily review incident priorities to ensure they match with current business priorities when they don’t really understand the priority levels and criteria.

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The Opportunity

Prioritization based on the current business context helps the service desk to ensure that what it does lines up with what is most important to the business. To line up service desk priorities with business priorities, the key is to speak the same language. Everyone knows what a Dollar is (or a Pound Sterling, or a Euro); not everybody knows what a P3 priority means. By quantifying priorities in terms of lost revenue per hour, the service desk and the business can work together to set and review priorities.

The Solution

Where a priority matrix will give the service desk a relative ranking of importance, using a dollars-per-hour metrics gives an absolute view of priority. For example, Server 1 is down and it’s costing the business $31,500 for every hour. Server 2 is down and it’s losing the business $60,000 every hour. Even though Server 1 supports two services, Server 2 is the priority. Now the priorities are clear to both IT and business people.


The principle is simple, yet there are some nuances that should be understood to put this into practice. For customer-facing services (like an ecommerce website), an average impact-per-hour metric can be set based on intelligence from the business. For internal business services and applications that support customer-facing services, an impact-per-person-per-hour value can be used to measure the impact based on the number of users affected. Also, the complex nature of IT infrastructure means that multiple services may be dependent on one IT component.

To support this, you need a service-oriented view of your infrastructure giving you visibility of which IT components support which services, so that service downtime (not just device downtime) can be detected and the service impact calculated automatically. In assyst, the combination of infrastructure monitoring, a service-view CMDB which logically links infrastructure to services, and information such as number of service users or service revenue per hour, enable real-time business prioritization for the service desk and real-time dashboards for IT managers.

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But wait! Doesn’t value-based reporting quantify how much money IT failures have cost the business today?

Yes it does, but it does present a strong business case for investment in high-availability infrastructure.

100% availability of services in unachievable. The idea is to get downtime and the resulting impact as close to zero as possible—while keeping costs acceptable relative to the potential gains.

When IT can show the business cost of downtime, it can make a stronger business case for investment to reduce future downtime and impact – and once improvements are applied, the reduced cost of downtime can be easily demonstrated in dollar terms (proving the ROI on the investment).

Of course, business priorities change. The service which is the biggest sources of revenue today may be entirely obsolete next year. So, SLAs and related dollar impact values should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the service desk has an up-to-date view of priorities. This, of course, requires regular liaison between IT and business unit stakeholders.


8 Big Service Desk Challenges...and How to Solve Them


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