According to ITIL, the Service Desk is the central hub and single point of contact for users. Due to high licensing fees for commercial ticketing software, however, Service Desk staff members sometimes have to live without a supporting software packet. Some of them get creative and develop their own ways of structuring the requests. Others just use the task list feature of Outlook to organize the requests. The drawbacks of these custom solutions are many; for example, there is no way to measure the time spent with each support case. However, the biggest issue is the lack of a software mechanism that enforces the defined policies.

Request Tracker is Open Source software that supports the organization of the Service Desk. It is written in Perl so it runs on various platforms. For those who can’t or don’t want to install the software in house there is also the option to pay for a hosting service. Once installed you can adjust and configure the software via a web interface.

Request Tracker offers everything you need to build an ITIL compliant Service Desk. You can receive requests by email or via a web interface. Using the web interface, you can search for, prioritize, assign, escalate, and close the tickets. You can also define different queues for e.g. Problem and Incident Management.

The logon/home screen looks like this:

Request Tracker home screen

Here  you find an overview of your open tickets and of unassigned tickets. There is also a form to submit a new support case.

Another important page is the “Ticket metadata” page. This page shows the history of a support ticket such as the initial problem description and a list of the steps taken to solve the problem. The page also shows blocks of metadata about the ticket, including the ticket’s status, the involved people, the timeline, and a list of links connected with the ticket. Here is a picture of a typical ticket:

Request Tracker ticket overview

Request Track er also offers some reporting functions. For example, you can display the total numbers of tickets created or resolved and sort tickets by ticket owners. I miss at least one option here, though: It would be helpful for measuring helpdesk costs if the amount of time spent for resolving a ticket could be tracked.

All in all Request Tracker is a simple ticketing software that offers the most basic functions. This might sound a bit negative, but it isn’t meant to be. I highly value the credo “keep it simple,” especially if the software is used in a smaller environment and no resources are available to train users. Instead of irritating the user with thousands of possibilities, Request Tracker only offers the necessary functions. This keeps the user focused on the important tasks and reduces the time needed to learn the system. As a result the operating costs are low and users are happy. However, for bigger companies with a well-trained helpdesk staff the offered functions might not suffice and these companies might be better served with a more elaborate ticketing system.

2 Comments
  1. Stefan 10 years ago

    First, there is no ITIL compliant software because ITIL is no standard. It's a best practice. Therefore the article is besides the point.

    Second, what's worth investigating about a ticket system in respect to ITIL is not whether it's compliant but whether positively supports the company in the _practice_ of ITIL. For a ticket system to support the company, it necessarily must have more than those features that are shared by all ticket systems. But as you correctly state RT only offers the "most basic functions." Therefore it is not positivel supportive for a company to practice ITIL.

    Any ticket system that wants to earn this badge needs _integrated_ featured geared to support ITIL such as problem management, incident management, ... .

  2. Stefan, why can't a tool be compliant with an unofficial standard or a "best practice"? Do you think that a technology gets better if a bunch of people who call themselves standardization committee release an "official standard"?

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