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What on earth does the ER and your Family Doctor have to do with IT Incidents and Service Requests? Well, since you asked…

Incidents, Service Requests, Doctors & the ER…Oh My!

ITIL promotes separating Incidents from Service Requests, which is like choosing whether to go to the Emergency Room (Incidents) or to your Family Doctor (Service Requests). Let’s take this analogy further…

One similarity between Emergency Rooms and Family Doctors is how they admit patients to the Medical Facility. The procedures at all Medical Facilities are similar and serve as a good model for how IT Support should intake new Customer Requests. Triage is the term used in Emergency Rooms and the term we will use for this article.

ITIL’s division of Incidents and Service Requests

An Incident is defined as a network, system, or device that is not working as designed whereas a Service Request is defined as ‘a formal request from a user for something to be provided – for example, a request for information or advice’.

Admissions at the IT Service Provider

Look at the parallels between Healthcare Admissions and the intake process at IT Service Providers.

Admissions = Customer Service/Dispatch/Service Desk/ or Level 1:

  • Takes your vitals (Describe the problem)
  • Asks a zillion questions (Call Script)
  • Looks up your medical history (Client Documentation)
  • All before bothering the Doctor (Technician/Engineer)

Determines if the case is an Emergency (Incident) or if the patient needs an appointment (Service Request).

The Incident Workflow Looks Something Like This

Emergency Room visit = Incident Workflow:

  • The Patient’s injuries are evaluated (Triaged) for:
    • Severity (Priority)
    • Insurance (Contract & Services)
  • Moreover, Emergency Room personnel (Customer Service or Triage Tech) assigns
    • Doctor on duty (Primary Resource)
    • Specialists (Secondary Resource)
    • Room Number (Queue)
    • Type of care (Work Type)
    • Rushed into surgery (Expedited)

At the end of the visit, there are typically three general outcomes:

  • Treated and released (remediated and completed)
  • Admission to the Hospital for additional care (escalated)
  • Referred to the Family Doctor (Network Administrator) for follow up and treatment

The Other Side of the World: Service Requests

On the other side of the world there are many types of health-related care services provided through Appointments (Service Requests). There are:

  • Visits to the Family Doctor = Network Administration
    • Physicals (Net Admin checklists)
    • Non-Emergency aches and pain (Customer’s punch list)
  • Cosmetic Surgery (Change Requests)
  • Hip-Replacement (Installs)
  • Pre-Natal, Childbirth, Post-Natal care (Projects)

The admission procedures for Service Requests are really very similar. However, by adding the element of making an appointment – often at other facilities – healthcare practices take longer when compared to the luxury that the IT Service Delivery industry has.

It Doesn’t Matter Where the Service Request Originated

Also, a minor difference in the Healthcare Industry is that the request for services usually comes from the patient. In IT Support, requests come from a variety of channels:

  • Customers
  • Account Managers
  • Vendors
  • RMM Tools

The source of the request doesn’t really matter: for IT Support, using the same Triage procedure works well.

Appointment = Scheduling a Service Call or Queue. The Patient’s requests are evaluated (Triaged) for:

  • Date of the Appointment (Due Date)
  • Duration of Appointment (Estimated Hours)
  • Doctor or Specialist (Primary Resource)
  • Supporting Staff (Secondary Resource)
  • Room Number (Calendar and/or Queue)
  • Type of care (Work Type)

Determining Distinct Workflows is Vital

The key here is to develop two separate workflows:

  • One for Incidents
  • Another for Service Requests

Doing this pulls the slow, arduous process of scheduling non-emergency work (Service Requests) out of the Critical and High Priority Emergency work (Incidents).

For obvious reasons, it’s vital (no pun intended) to the Patient (Customer) that Heart Attacks (Server Down), Car Accidents (ISP outage), Drug Overdoes (Malware) and the like move rapidly from Admissions (Triage) to Stabilized (Remediated).

And we need to keep the process moving along efficiently so it isn’t slowed down by the scheduling of other Patients (Customer Requests).

When Customer requests are divided into two workflows, not only can each workflow be finely tuned for optimization, but better tracking, staffing, and decision-making can also be achieved.


Stephen Buyze

Stephen leverages over 30 years of Technical Management experience to help IT Managed Service Providers improve their Service Delivery operations. He’s walked many miles in the shoes of Service Managers and IT Professionals and is passionate about giving back. Learn more about “How He Helps” at: