Until ITIL version 3, there was no difference between the terms ‘incident’ and ‘service request’. Basically, all issues and customer requests were handled under the catch-all term ‘incidents’. When version 3 came along, the two were split into different uses with different meanings. Sometimes, the term ‘ticket’ can also be confused with ‘incident’ or ‘service request’ because the definition is a bit similar to that of ‘service request’.
IT professionals who agree on everything from the benefits of the cloud to the need for more secure email solutions break into heated, passionate debates over the difference in these terms. Once and for all, here are the differences in these terms (according to the latest version of ITIL) and how to use each properly during the course of your workday.
What is an Incident?
An incident is now defined as any event that is 1.) unplanned 2.) causes an interruption in service or a deterioration in service quality. ITIL lays out the foundation of Incident Management principles in order to address incidents quickly and restore services to full capacity as soon as possible. What is important to note regarding incidents is that any planned service disruption or reduction in quality is not an incident. For example, if you take systems offline for updating, backing up, or maintenance, it isn’t an incident, because it is planned. Additionally, a problem can be a problem without being an incident, because unless the problem causes an interruption in service or deterioration in quality, it isn’t an incident. In other words, if you discover an issue before it causes disruptions, by definition it isn’t an incident.
What is a Service Request?
As you see, incidents have everything to do with what occurs within the systems, and may or may not have anything to do with the users. Service requests, however, have everything to do with the user, and may or may not indicate any issues within the system. Service requests are a formal request submitted by a user for some type of service, software, or hardware. Service requests generally refer to something the user wants and/or needs but does not already have, such as a printer or laptop. Service requests often involve items that are already approved. For instance, if it is company policy that all employees get access to the cloud-based CRM system, and someone from the marketing department sends a service request for access to the CRM, this does not need any additional approval. The IT help desk can simply fulfill this request.
What is a Ticket?
Tickets might not be easily confused with incidents, but you can see how tickets could be confused with service requests. Usually, a user must submit a ticket in order to notify IT of a service request. Customers also initiate tickets if they have a problem (in other words, they experience an incident). Clearly, tickets do not necessarily indicate that there is an incident, and tickets may or may not involve a service request.
Most highly evolved help desks have automated their system so that users can submit tickets and/or issue a service request by visiting a self-help portal. These portals can also include service catalogs where a user can select the service request from a menu and issue it automatically to the help desk.
ITIL version 3 reflects a more modern, sophisticated help desk, where more services are automated and the help desk has less hands-on work directly with the users.