The Ideal Service Board Layout and Their Swim Lanes

by | Sep 1, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Swim Lanes

Below are the threads of a chapter for my upcoming book Agile Service Delivery – The Ultimate Secret to Making Work Flow, spawned from an email sent to me asking for clarification on service boards/queues.

I was recently asked what it is that I recommend for how to set up service boards or queues in a PSA or ticketing system and how I viewed Swim Lanes for them. This is an expanded narrative of the email I sent in response.

The Boards
I recommend that for the Service Desk, you use three simple boards: Help Desk (or Triage), Support Desk (or Field Service or Escalation), and NOC (or Back Office).
Note: Autotask is screwy and forces the use of a stupid inbound sorting queue - ignore that for the sake of this narrative. Also, I choose to use the terms Board not Queue, and Issue not Ticket, although they are each the same, respectively, so you can interchange them as you like.

Swim Lanes

Basic Flow Rules
1) All Issues created for or by carbon-based life forms (humans) begin life on the Help Desk board.
2) All Issues created by non-carbon-based life forms (RMM agents, scripts, apps that send email, etc.) begin life on the NOC board.
3) All Issues created by the team (us) in the normal course of work are, by default, created on the Support Desk board.

Important safety tip: Rule number three does not apply to the tickets we create while helping out by answering the phone or covering for someone on Help Desk. Those follow the rules of intake script and either land on the Help Desk if rapid response, or are immediately escalated based on their criteria. Nor does it mean we implicitly cannot create a ticket on the NOC board. The idea behind the default is that typically, when we come across something that we know needs to be fixed, it is likely not a Help Desk issue (rapid response and bothering the client), and further, it is not likely a NOC issue (something that can be done remotely in the middle of the night with minimal direct client interaction).

By creating these issues we came across on the Support Desk board, they can quickly be qualitized and moved to the appropriate board without clogging Triage and without having to wait for the NOC cycle.

What is the NOC Cycle?
In any size team and especially in smaller teams, one person is primarily in charge of the NOC board. Their daily cycle includes massaging the board a minimum of once a day and up to three times a day. This is outside of addressing alerts like Server Down and Network Unavailable. So the NOC cycle simply means one of the regular passes through the NOC board to check on it and qualitze everything.

Help Desk Defined
Any “Request” that can be completed in under 30 minutes remotely (or whatever limited time allowed), without third-party intervention by a Tier 1 technician, i.e. rapid response, easy to fix.

If you have only a few people (< 15 or so), you cannot run a true Service Desk Help Desk where the tech can answer every call and stay on the phone until it is resolved or escalated. Thus, the simple rules.

Help Desk is for rapid response for simple things. One technician is assigned as the primary and, ideally, there is a secondary tech in case the primary gets hit by a car, dies, quits, goes to lunch, takes a long break, goes on vacations, etc.

Support Desk Defined
This is where the bulk of the reactive work is done and escalated to. Issues can be pushed out to the Help Desk or to NOC provided they meet all the requirements of that board. i.e. If it were reported by a client (email, phone, etc.) or a server (script, agent, etc.) to either the Help Desk or NOC board, would it be left there after being qualitized? If not, it stays on the Support board and will be resolved under the normal course of flow. One technician is assigned as the primary, as mentioned above.

NOC Defined
All the work we could do remotely, as we have time to do so, with minimal direct client interactions, and can easily be outsourced or automated. The more mature we are, the more we can be proactive with the work on the NOC. One technician is assigned as the primary, as mentioned above.

Escalation Basics
If Help Desk cannot solve the Issue in under 30 minutes, remotely, without third-party intervention, it gets thrown over the fence to Support Desk. Likewise, if NOC needs something done on-site or requiring much direct interaction with the client or end loser, it gets thrown over the fence to Support Desk.

Distributed Service Coordination
If each Issue has a Born-on Date (creation date), Priority, and Skill required to complete the work successfully without further escalation (Qualitized), then we can work a blind process where the techs are free-running and working Issues as fast as they can WITHOUT any Service Dispatch required.

They work Issues on their assigned Board from highest Priority to lowest, from oldest Issue to newest, and what is in their skill range. When they run out of work, they jump over and back up the other techs on another Board (according to assignment, i.e. I’m primary on Help Desk and a backup on Support Desk or NOC). In this way, we can easily create a sprint of service to the customers by swarming Issue types (same issue affecting many companies), client Issue bloat (one client experiencing many issues, causing undue stress on their network or teams).

There is a lot more to it, but these are the basics.

I should mention that the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) dictates almost all of what I’ve laid out, i.e. no big surprises - the need for a specific Help Desk, NOC, Support Desk, etc. They refer to all of this as the Service Desk, and they dictate you will have Priorities, Escalation, Teams, and so on.

To this, I add that Agile Service Delivery tells us that the Swim Lane can be anything we want it to be.

Swim Lane Defined
Categories we break work down into to make it easier to approach. For example, Tier/Skill Level, Network Type, Client, User Type, Client Team, pretty much anything you like. The term comes from the agile discipline known as Kanban.

From the Agile Service Delivery Master Class
Swim Lanes

Kanban Defined (very loosely)
Kanban is simply a flavor of Agile made most famous by Toyota that is one of the main secrets to making work visible. It simply means putting your Issues onto small cards and putting them up on a board for everyone to see, organized in a left-to-right flow representing progress from New to Completed. To make it simple, imagine turning your service statuses on their side. Assuming your statuses progress from New to In Progress to Waiting to Closed, i.e. the Issue progresses ever toward being closed and only pausing on a Waiting status when absolutely necessary. Your Kanban board would look like the image above.

How To Use a Swim Lane
Once you’ve established the flow of a technician’s day, the flow of a ticket including escalation and defined skill levels of the team members, you can now simply create swim lanes to keep them on track.

I always recommend swim lanes primarily be based on skill or tier. When the team or department gets bigger, you can create other swim lanes, but this is the absolute best starting point.

So now, the tech works their assigned board (let’s say Help Desk), from Highest Priority to Lowest Priority, from Oldest to Newest and what is solidly in their Swim Lane (say Tier 1). When they run out of work on their assigned board, they go back up someone (let’s say on Support Desk). There, again, they only work tickets in their Swim Lane.

But Manny, what if there aren’t any tickets in their Swim Lane on the Support Board? After all, you said it’s mostly full of issues escalated from Help Desk or NOC, right? Right-o you are! But just because it was escalated from Help Desk because it broke the time requirement or remote access or third-party doesn’t mean it can’t be worked by a Tier 1. Also, there are some simple rules about pushing work down to elevate techs.

It works like this: A ticket gets thrown over the fence as the Tier 1 doesn’t know how to fix it and assumes it needs a Tier 2. They change the Issue to be Tier 2, put in their notes, and throw it over the fence (escalate). Then, they run out of issues and go help out on the Support Board. Low and behold, a Tier 2 looked at the issue and added an internal note with the exact link to resolve the issue and set it back to a Tier 1 skill required. Now, this is only one example, and maybe my next blog will only be about elevating the techs from above.

Final Note on Swim Lanes
Do NOT limit the ability for a team or department to choose the field they use for creating a Swim Lane; by doing so, you significantly limit their ability to truly be agile.

Important Side Note on Why Multiple Boards is a Bad Thing
1) ITIL identifies several disciplines a complete Service Desk will have:
• Incident Management
• Problem Management
• Configuration Management
• Change Management
• Release Management
• Risk Management
• Service Level Management (SLAs)
• Capacity Management
• Service Continuity Management
…And that’s the old ITIL 3.0 - We just got ITIL 4.0, and it has a few additions.

If a mature company did as you see these other MSPs and IT service providers doing, how many Boards would they have in order to represent these disciplines, let alone the Tier 1, 2, 3, etc.? The answer is already built into Autotask. When you create a new ticket, it is designated as a Request, Incident, or Problem (ConnectWise doesn’t do that yet that I know of). The idea being, we can have a separate team or department or agile group with a specific discipline focus and point them at the work, and we don’t need 10 or 20 Boards to sort the work. That is the definition of silo!

Remember, Agile is a highly accountable team moving through work and only getting help in coordination, versus the stack and run – a service dispatcher pushing work onto the team.

Side Note on Cost of Multiple Boards
An open Issue is technically inventory. It is a quantum of service we are doing for the client. It is not considered delivered and off our floor (out of our stock) until it is closed and billable or attributable to the value we give the client in exchange for the Managed Services revenue we charge.

The number one rule of inventory is that you never move it if you do not have to! It costs you time and money every time you do. And the number one rule of touching an Issue (not just me saying this, but Agile rules too) is that you don’t touch the Issue (even to move it) if it does not add value!

So, if you have people moving Issues from this board to that board and back and then forgetting to assign it or whatever, that is creating a rogue Issue. Too many touches without actually adding value!

My favorite saying about multiple Boards is this: The more boards you have, the more places you have to lose a ticket.

BTW, the team behind the PSA in the U.K. that I have been collaborating with – Harmony PSA (a fully Agile solution, by the way) – made it a point early on to ensure the entire database was indexed specifically so that any user can create any trigger, report, or sort using any field in the system. ConnectWise and Autotask could take a hint here.


#AgileServiceDelivery

About Manuel Palachuk

I am the coach that will take you to the gym! Not just send you there.

I provide coaching and consulting to individuals, teams, or organizations with only one goal in mind: to take you and your business to the next level. And I have the blueprint to do it!

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To My Newsletter & Blog Update

Archives

What my clients are saying…

Mike Ita, CEO & Founder, IT Corps

Mike Ita

“The difference Manuel has made to my personal life, team, and organization in the short time working with him has been immeasurable. I knew who he was before we started working together, but didn’t realize he was on a mission to help other people succeed… Read more “Mike Ita, CEO & Founder, IT Corps”

Mike Ita, CEO & Founder
IT Corps

Ken Dwight, President, The Virus Doctor

Ken Dwight

“I find value in working with Manuel in many ways – financially, organizationally, and new and enhanced professional relationships. He has been a breath of fresh air, helping me recognize areas of my business that are ripe for improvement, giving me ideas for growing my… Read more “Ken Dwight, President, The Virus Doctor”

Ken Dwight, President
The Virus Doctor

John Verbrugge, President, Nonlinear Tech Inc.

John-Verbrugge

“Manuel is direct and clear. He stands by his advice and recommendations. There’s never any guessing as to what he means or what I should do. Manuel provided solid business advice in the IT service provider field. He had not only the business coaching, but… Read more “John Verbrugge, President, Nonlinear Tech Inc.”

John Verbrugge, President
Nonlinear Tech Inc.

Rayanne Buchianico, Owner, ABC Solutions, LLC

Rayanne Buchianico

“Manuel is so much more than a coach. If you own or manage an MSP, you need to talk with him. His extensive experience and unique system takes your business and draws a picture. The picture starts with what your business looks like today, and… Read more “Rayanne Buchianico, Owner, ABC Solutions, LLC”

Rayanne Buchianico, Owner
ABC Solutions, LLC

Philipp Baumann, President, BoomTech, Inc.

Philipp Baumann

“When I engaged with Manuel, my business was at a very bad point. We were not providing good service to our customers. Every tech did things differently, and we had a cowboy lead technician that was causing more harm than good and a system that… Read more “Philipp Baumann, President, BoomTech, Inc.”

Philipp Baumann, President
BoomTech, Inc.

Eddie Joffe, Owner, NetZone Technologies

Eddie Joffe

“I love working with Manuel. He constantly gets me past my sticking points. When I feel stuck, I know Manuel will get me going again to reach my goals. Before working with Manuel, I actually wasn’t even using PSA. Manuel made sure I implemented a… Read more “Eddie Joffe, Owner, NetZone Technologies”

Eddie Joffe, Owner
NetZone Technologies

Josh Weiss, President & Founder, L.A. Creative Technologies

Josh Weiss

“I chose to coach with Manuel because I appreciate how he does business. Manuel is rigorous, process focused, and genuinely cares about his clients and individuals and their businesses as a whole. Manuel helped me think through the process of creating a rigorous process manual,… Read more “Josh Weiss, President & Founder, L.A. Creative Technologies”

Josh Weiss, President & Founder
L.A. Creative Technologies

Robin Galley, Assistant Vice President, Golden Pacific Bank

Robin-Galley

“Manuel’s coaching has made a tremendous difference in my life as a whole. Before I met Manuel, I did not see myself as someone who was in control of my career. His coaching has not only allowed me to see how I am in control,… Read more “Robin Galley, Assistant Vice President, Golden Pacific Bank”

Robin Galley, Assistant Vice President
Golden Pacific Bank

Jason R. Etheridge, President, Logic Speak

Jason Etheridge

“Working with Manuel has been business-changing and far exceeded my expectations. He isn’t lying when he says he takes you to the gym. My head muscle hurts (in a good way)! The MPI Getting to the Next Level program has completely changed our service delivery… Read more “Jason R. Etheridge, President, Logic Speak”

Jason R. Etheridge, President
Logic Speak

Schyler Jones, Owner, MiradorIT LLC

Schyler Jones

“I’ve been working with Manuel going on 4 years and I can say my experience has been nothing shy of phenomenal. Manuel has years of real-world experience both as an engineer and in IT, developing and following formalized processes that have enabled him to build… Read more “Schyler Jones, Owner, MiradorIT LLC”

Schyler Jones, Owner
MiradorIT LLC

Patrick Eloi, Owner and General Manager, Complete Care IT

Patrick Eloi

“The CCIT staff has responded well to Manuel’s coaching because they can see the improvement in our day-to-day process. The training emphasizes the need for our technical staff to document and function as a team as opposed to each tech working as an individual. Manuel’s… Read more “Patrick Eloi, Owner and General Manager, Complete Care IT”

Patrick Eloi, Owner and General Manager
Complete Care IT

David Moadab, CEO, Solutions Squad Inc.

David Moadab

“I had joined a Microsoft networking event and after the first few meetings, I began to notice a pattern: The most successful members seemed to have a common denominator – Manuel. This is what made me choose Manuel for coaching. Before working with Manuel, we… Read more “David Moadab, CEO, Solutions Squad Inc.”

David Moadab, CEO
Solutions Squad Inc.

William Lanier, CEO, Christian Computers, LLC

William Lanier

“What difference has Manuel’s coaching made? How do you say ‘EVERYTHING’? He understands the trials of an IT company owner. Not just the IT side, but the family side, the team side. He has all the areas covered. The reason his training is different is… Read more “William Lanier, CEO, Christian Computers, LLC”

William Lanier, CEO
Christian Computers, LLC

Stephen H. Watkins, Sr., Owner, S.H. Watkins and Associates

Stephen-H.-Watkins-Sr.

“It is most important to note that Manuel truly understands every aspect of our business and our product. There is no doubt that his experience in the service industry has helped us put together many of our best processes in much less time than if… Read more “Stephen H. Watkins, Sr., Owner, S.H. Watkins and Associates”

Stephen H. Watkins, Sr., Owner
S.H. Watkins and Associates

Alan Helbush, President, Where To Start Inc.

Alan Helbush

“Manuel truly understands the business of being an MSP, how to deliver service efficiently, and what the impacts are on an organization when doing so. This comes from seeing the big picture as he does and then being able to focus it down to the… Read more “Alan Helbush, President, Where To Start Inc.”

Alan Helbush, President
Where To Start Inc.

Felipe Vidal, President, Vital Systems Support

Felipe Vidal

“I like a no B.S. way of communicating. Manuel communicates clearly and with a conviction that gets my attention even when I don’t agree with him. There’s no sales pitch in Manuel’s delivery. He really keeps it real. Manuel is focused on success in our… Read more “Felipe Vidal, President, Vital Systems Support”

Felipe Vidal, President
Vital Systems Support

Jon Sastre, Senior Vice President of Cloud Services, United Data Technologies

Jon Sastre

“Manuel is a black belt at building and sustaining a true proactive service delivery model. He works to build and change cultures within organizations. Other business coaches are generic; Manuel understands the MSP model and how to achieve excellence in service delivery. He understands our… Read more “Jon Sastre, Senior Vice President of Cloud Services, United Data Technologies”

Jon Sastre, Senior Vice President of Cloud Services
United Data Technologies

Jim Hunton, President, Onsite Technical Services LLC

Jim Hunton

“I find working with Manuel to be efficient and productive. He is very task orientated and holds everyone accountable. Manuel brings real knowledge and experience. He knows how to make you more profitable. Manuel is not there to lay out a plan and not see… Read more “Jim Hunton, President, Onsite Technical Services LLC”

Jim Hunton, President
Onsite Technical Services LLC

Robert Paradise, President, Attain Technology Inc.

Robert Paradise Attain

“Manuel Palachuk will take your MSP to a whole new level! Manuel was recommended to me by a friend, and my experience with him has been awesome. He is one coach that is determined to make progress no matter what. Many other coaches would have… Read more “Robert Paradise, President, Attain Technology Inc.”

Robert Paradise, President
Attain Technology Inc.

Ben Ahlquist, President, ByteSmart Services LLC

Ben Ahlquist

“Manuel comes from a true foundation of success in our industry in his own right, combines it with top-notch operations consulting and business strategy, and has a coaching style that gives it to you straight while simultaneously being encouraging with no judgment or criticism. I… Read more “Ben Ahlquist, President, ByteSmart Services LLC”

Ben Ahlquist, President
ByteSmart Services LLC

Brian Glover, CEO, Technology Solutions Consulting

Brian Glover

“My business process was held together with duct tape when I met Manuel, which created a lot of chaos in my business. He told me I needed to automate my business so I did not have to work in my business and showed me a… Read more “Brian Glover, CEO, Technology Solutions Consulting”

Brian Glover, CEO
Technology Solutions Consulting

Ahsun Saleem, President, Simplegrid Technology Inc.

Ahsun Saleem

“I wanted a coach who wouldn’t just tell me what I needed to do, but how I needed to do it. As a business owner, I understood the various areas I needed to work on, but wasn’t sure how I could go about improving those… Read more “Ahsun Saleem, President, Simplegrid Technology Inc.”

Ahsun Saleem, President
Simplegrid Technology Inc.

Steve Bootes, Owner, Computing Dynamics Ltd.

Steve Bootes

“The most important benefit to Manuel’s coaching has been his encouragement and being told that we’re making improvements. When you’re in the thick of it every day, it can sometimes seem that you’re not making any progress and things are just the same that they’ve… Read more “Steve Bootes, Owner, Computing Dynamics Ltd.”

Steve Bootes, Owner
Computing Dynamics Ltd.