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Mining the Value in Notes and Time Entries

For many years while I was actively involved in managing the daily activities of a large group of support engineers at a MSP help desk, we had a saying, “If it’s not in ConnectWise, it doesn’t exist.” ConnectWise was our ITSM platform of choice. Regardless of your preferred software platform, the maxim holds true.

At a Managed Service Provider, all truths, opportunities, issues and insight live in the service management tools. Regrettably, most companies are only taking advantage of a small piece of that information. I’m here to tell you, “there’s gold in them thar hills,” locked up in time entries and notes that you probably never think twice about.

My favorite example is root cause, or simply put: what are the real issues your clients are facing?

The workflow for ticket or issue management is common throughout the industry: An end user calls or emails in a problem. An employee serving the role of triage takes that information and translates it into a service ticket or incident then assigns it to a specific resource or loads it to a service board for assignment to the next available team member.

Part of ticket creation is categorization. Generally speaking, categories are assigned based on what the client said combined with what the employee entering the ticket heard and thus begins the telephone game. When neither of the people involved in the conversation have a technical background, the end-user may share what is being impacted (i.e. I can’t login to Citrix or some other process problem) but the employee interprets whatever was said as a system problem, i.e. a Citrix issue.

Almost no one includes in their workflow circling back to the original ticket categorization and correcting it when the problem turns out to be an account lockout issue, a wireless networking issue, or any one of a million other things that manifest in not being able to login to Citrix. This gap in recordkeeping can lead to countless issues. In this case, let’s say a client submits 100 tickets about Citrix in a quarter. When the technical account manager sits with the customer to perform an account review, they are likely to determine, collectively, that Citrix is a problem and subsequently several highly skilled (and highly compensated) resources spend hours digging into a phantom Citrix issue when in reality the problem is user accounts lockout too easily and there exists no simple way within this client account to get them unlocked.

This example is a true story where ultimately the root cause was uncovered in a review of the time entry of those 100 tickets. If somebody (or some machine) was tasked with the responsibility of reading the notes and proper categorization of the ticket after problem resolution, this would present a tremendous opportunity for both the MSP and the customer to obtain a true understanding of the issues.

Documentation is an example of another type of information that may be locked inside ticket notes and time entries.

How often have you looked up the configuration of a device or peripheral only to find that it’s not documented or worse the available documentation is incorrect? I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen notes about a change in a time record that never make it to the configuration management system.

On the whole, engineers are pretty good about documenting what they do in their notes and timesheets, but not always good about completing the follow-up documentation. Even if you cannot locate the precise details of what support task was performed, you will often find an audit trail sufficient to get to the essence of the problem. For example, the new external IP address of a client firewall may not be documented, but if you can locate the ticket where the change was made, there you will find your answer.

Details of customer satisfaction may also be revealed in notes and time entries.

As ticket notes are usually generated by an employee who is customer-facing, digging into what your technical staff documents can be very revealing!

  • A hugely negative sentiment to the conversations could be a giant red flag that needs addressing.
  • Users sharing proprietary information – even accidentally – could be a major concern.
  • And sometimes techs just share things with clients that they shouldn’t. (I once found notes from a help desk associate that said I’m going to stop working on this for a while and take a lunch break. While this was completely acceptable behavior, it wasn’t something that needed to be documented for the client to see.)

What if a machine existed to mine your lost and valuable information?

At CrushBank, we have been able to capitalize on the AI-engine that is IBM Watson to mine hundreds of thousands of data points. Now technicians on helpdesks across the country can use natural language queries to find the answers they need in seconds, vastly increasing ticket resolution time and boosting customer satisfaction.

MSPs absent a tool, system, or process for unlocking the goldmine of information that lives in their ticket notes and time entries are missing out.

This post is courtesy of CrushBank CTO David Tan.

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