The ticket cost funnel

A common misconception among end users is that we (i.e. the IT department) charge them per ticket. While I don’t know where that misconception comes from, let me say right out that my experience of more than twenty years in the industry is that this simply is not true.

While it is true that support departments are often measured by their ticket resolution rate, that’s as far as it goes. Charging per ticket simply does not make sense. Anyone who has read either DevOps, the theory of constraints, or both should intuitively understand why.

The theory of constraints holds single piece flow as the ideal, and this holds true for IT as much as it does for manufacturing. Knowing this, instituting policies that incentivises customers to enter convoluted, multi-part tickets, rather than divide it up as one ticket per request quite simply does not make any sense.

There is, of course, also a financial side to this. The smaller a request is, the easier it will typically be to resolve. The easier it is to resolve, the less it costs to resolve it. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the cost per unit of time remains the same for each tier*. Let’s also assume that each tier spends one unit of time on every ticket**.

The result is that a ticket resolved at tier one costs one unit to resolve, a ticket resolved at tier two costs two units of time to resolve, and a ticket resolved at tier three costs three units of time to resolve. It makes sense, then, to ensure that each tier are given training, access, and documentation to resolve as many tickets as possible.

This is neither a new idea, nor revolutionary. Rather, understanding it is, I believe, critical to identify where to apply effort as a business. In other words; where do we get the most bang for our buck?

*: Typically, the lower in the tier stack you are, the lower your pay is, meaning that the earlier in the stack a ticket is solved, the cheaper it is to resolve – assuming that it would always take the same amount of time to resolve.

**: This is exceedingly rare. The harder tickets take longer to solve, meaning that they spend longer at each stage. Furthermore, the harder tickets tend to spend much longer at the down-stream tiers.

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