Avoiding Escalations

The IT Pain Threshold is the point where ticket volumes start to grow exponentially. If tickets continue to grow without being resolved, that pain is transferred to IT through escalations and, worse, CEO interventions. This is something you want to avoid.

In my first article, The Trouble with Tickets, I introduced the concept of the IT Pain Threshold, which is the amount of pain an end user needs to suffer before opening a trouble ticket. Unless this threshold is exceeded there is a gap (the IT Experience Gap) between what IT can measure, and what is really happening. This is important to know because IT Organisations typically learn about end user issues through two means:

  1. Tickets (OK)
  2. Escalations (not OK)

People open trouble tickets once their individual IT pain threshold has been exceeded. This is usually when they are unable to do something that is critical for their role, for example connecting to the network from outside the office to access a file or application. Individual cases of these are called incidents. Systemic cases are called problems. Incidents lead to tickets, but problems lead to escalations, typically once the organisation crosses the Escalation Threshold.

In today’s “flat” corporate world, anyone can escalate IT problems to the CIO, particularly if they are in mission critical roles like Sales, Customer Support or Engineering. Often IT will respond to this with some helpful communications or a project, but if the problem continues unresolved you could end up with a CEO Intervention. This is when your beloved and usually-friendly CEO becomes personally interested and sends a very brief and unambiguous email along the lines of “Fix this NOW”. Never a good day.

Because everyone in your organisation has a different IT pain threshold, it can be difficult to anticipate every possible issue, particularly in very large organisations. So, for efficiency and manageability, we tend to steer towards “vanilla”, one-size-fits-all solutions. The reality, though, is that one size fits none, and this leads to escalations from different lines of business whose needs are far from vanilla.

But, there is hope. While individuals are different, groups of individuals are often similar: similar roles, similar responsibilities, similar behaviours, similar pain thresholds. Your organisation can be segmented into groups, cohorts, or what marketing would call Personas.

Personas help you break down the organisation into manageable units, and you can build your IT strategy around those. By addressing the specific needs of those Personas, you can anticipate changing business needs, and avoid escalations. Even more, you can start to lead the business through change and become a trusted business advisor. This way you can actively drive employee effectiveness, value, and revenue opportunities, and thereby attract more investment in IT.

Traditional IT was constrained on cost. Modern IT drives value. The best IT departments use Active Listening to anticipate and respond to changing business needs, and move beyond being the break-fix guys to become trusted business advisors.

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