Is a How-to an Incident or a Service Request

By ITIL® from Experience©

A How-to is when the User contacts the Service Desk for assistance or for instructions on how-to do something. For example, how-to:

  • send an email with an attachment that exceeds the gateway’s size limit
  • get a copy of a user guide
  • load music on their SmartPhone
  • access their emails remotely

Deciding if these are incidents or service requests affects the:

Many people conclude that a How-to is an Incident. After all if the User cannot use the service, or has trouble using it, like completing a transaction with the Point-of-Sale equipment there is an impact to the business as a customer is waiting. This also makes sense since Problem Management would review incident trends and raise changes to eradicate root cause in order to prevent these incidents from occurring. For example, to reduce the number of How-to: training or coaching could be offered, a knowledge base could be implemented or existing self-help resources be marketed to Users. Or for the Point-Of-Sale example, Problem Management might identify User Interface design issues.

The difficulty with this approach is that an IT component has not failed. And, reporting How-to as Incidents can easily be miss-understood by management as having issues affecting service availability and that I.T. should have prevented them to avoid impacting the business.

ITIL® definitions1 provides guidance:

  • Incident (ITIL® Service Operation) "An unplanned interruption to an IT service or reduction in the quality of an IT service. Failure of a configuration item that has not yet affected service is also an incident – for example, failure of one disk from a mirror set."
  • Service Request (ITIL® Service Operation) "A formal request from a user for something to be provided – for example, a request for information or advice; to reset a password; or to install a workstation for a new user. Service requests are managed by the request fulfillment process, usually in conjunction with the service desk. Service requests may be linked to a request for change as part of fulfilling the request."

Therefore, a request for information or a how-to according to ITIL® since it is:

  • a service request as it is "a request for information or advice"
  • not an incident since the event is not "an unplanned interruption"

Treating these events as Service Request makes them suitable to be added to the Service Catalogue. It is also relatively easy for IT to assign an SLA response and resolution times since the effort needed to fulfill these requests is predictable.

To decide if How-to are incidents or service requests, determine which management process will be initiated when the event is logged. If you're still unsure: If it is preventing the business from functioning it should be an incident. Otherwise its a service request.


More on Incident Management
More on Request Fulfillment (Service Requests)

ITIL Process > Incident Management
ITIL Process > Request Fulfillment

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