Help Desk System: Architecture & Requirements
2. Trouble Ticket Templates
Information in trouble tickets can be placed in either fixed or freeform fields. Fixed fields have the advantage that they can be used more easily for searches. A series of fixed fields also acts as a template, either encouraging or requiring the customers to fill in certain standard data. Fixed fields can facilitate data verification (e.g., making sure an entered name is in an attached contacts database or verifying that a phone number consists of ten numeric characters). Fixed fields are also appropriate for data that is automatically entered by the system, such as the customer's login id, the name of the product that was clicked on if the trouble ticket is opened via an alert tool, or names and phone numbers that are automatically entered into the ticket.
Unfortunately, fixed fields work best where the problem-debugging environment is uniform, well-understood, and stable; that is, trouble tickets work best when their fields are well tailored to the specific problem at hand. It is easy to set up a large number of fields (or even required fields) that are irrelevant to a given problem; this slows down and confuses the customer. Adding structure and validity checking to a field tends to make the data more consistent and reliable, but it also tends to force the customers into longer procedures like menus to get the data accepted by the system. It also requires more maintenance efforts on that verification systems (adding new entries as they become new legal options), and in some ways it reduces the accuracy of the system by forcing customers to choose options that may not always represent the situation accurately.
Where statistical operational reports are a primary purpose of the trouble ticket system, several fixed fields may be appropriate. If the primary intent of the system is to keep notes for individual problems and to facilitate communication between operators, then fixed fields may tend to be a hindrance. One reasonable guideline would be that fixed fields are used only where they are automatically filled in by the larger system, or where the information in that field is explicitly used in a report or standard search procedure.
Because of this close relationship between the structure of the ticket and the problem to be solved, it is very useful to be able to define different ticket types for different classes of problems. This means that the trouble ticket configurations need to be modifiable by local staff.