Home > What’s the Difference Between Incidents, Service Requests, and Tickets?

What’s the Difference Between Incidents, Service Requests, and Tickets?

One of the most common questions that we receive during implementation is, “What is the difference between an incident and a service request?” While most people are familiar with “tickets” or “incidents,” they may not understand all of these terms when you throw them into the realm of the service catalog. If the service catalog has you exploring a strange new world in ITSM, we’ll clarify the difference between your traditional incident and service request, and oh yeah, how does a ticket play into all of this?

What is an Incident?

Most everyone is probably familiar with your traditional incident. We like to define an incident as something that is a break/fix issue that needs to be resolved. This might be something that is not working properly or could be broken. For example, this would include a broken printer, an application that will not load properly or even a warp core breach. Can we get someone to engineering, immediately? We need warp engines by the end of the day.

What is a Service Request?

Now, a service request is a request for a pre-approved service that your organization can offer to its end users. You have the option to build service catalog items which can include variable information that can be collected from your end user as well as a “behind the scenes” process that includes tasks and approvals that will be sent off to certain groups within your organization. The service catalog can be used to build out request forms for employee onboarding and offboarding, various equipment or an office move. You may even find your end users requesting shore leave through the service catalog. The service catalog will save you time with upfront data collection and automatic tasks or approvals.

All this talk of incidents, service requests, and how we refer to them leads us to another common question…

What is a Ticket?

When an incident occurs, a user submits a “ticket.” The service desk works the ticket according to workflows the organization has set up. Simply put, the incident is the event, and the ticket is the documentation of the event. It is the physical (err… digital) vehicle through which your service desk is alerted of an incident and responds to it.

Service requests are not tickets. Service requests are made from a number of predetermined items that the organization has made available to its users through the service catalog. There’s no need to “create a ticket” to describe a service request. Your organization is already familiar with this type of request, which is why they built it out and made it available in the service catalog.

Some organizations choose not to use the word “ticket.” If you want to say “the user submitted an incident,” that’s totally acceptable. It might be easier for your team just to worry about incidents and service requests, not how to refer to the documentation.

Most highly evolved help desks have automated their system so that users can submit tickets and/or issue a service request by visiting an employee service portal.

Sarah Nielsen
Sarah Nielsen is a Manager, On-Boarding, ITSM, helping customers set up their service desk according to their organization's goals. She is also the resident Star…
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