IT does a lot of different kinds of work. Managing it all can be a challenge. Whether your organization is large or small, having a good handle on the types of work IT does is important.
All IT work falls into four large buckets. Let’s look at what these are and how an IT leader should think about them.
Before I start, a quick shout-out to the standards that some of you may use. ITIL, COBIT, etc. These standards also slice up the work into buckets. The terms may be different but the concepts are the same. Also, your organization likely has different terminology. That’s ok, I am more concerned about the concepts.
The four types of IT work are:
- Incidents: Think of this as broken stuff that the IT team needs to fix. Hardware, software, interfaces, etc. that are not functioning as they should. One or more employees cannot do their job due to this problem..
- Service Requests: These are standard changes. Changes that come in frequently enough and consistently enough to have a standard process. Adding an employee, replacing a computer, adding permissions or access, name changes, department changes, etc.
- Change Requests: These are non-standard changes. Unique changes to applications or reports, making infrastructure changes. These are almost always unique and require different actions to implement.
- Projects: These are the larger efforts that require project management techniques to make sure they complete on time and on budget.
These types of work differ in some important ways.
- Tracking: The information needed to track the work from beginning to end differs enough that organizations often have different tools for each. Sometimes organizations will combine Incidents and Service Requests in the Help Desk system as they tend to be shorter in duration and smaller in scope. Change Requests and Projects are bigger and longer and typically require their own tracking system.
- Prioritization is also different. Incidents and Service Requests are usually first-in-first-out (FIFO). While there may be some change to the priorities based on the scope of a problem, in general, we worked these on in the order they come in. On the other hand, we prioritize Change Requests and Projects according to business need. The order they come into the IT department has no relationship to the order it gets worked on.
- Scope: Projects are, by definition, the larger efforts to make larger changes. More people, departments, and money are involved. On the other end of the continuum, Incidents tend to involve smaller numbers of people and rarely any money. Services requests generally involve a single employee and change requests involve larger groups.
In my experience, grouping the work together into these four areas, with a tracking and prioritization tool for each. The department process for each is different enough that they can rarely be combined. Dividing any of these into smaller groups tends to add work that doesn’t help service quality.