Categorize this!

Several ITIL processes include a categorization activity, most prominently Incident and Problem Management. Categorization capabilities in most of the major tool families are widely misunderstood, and because of that, organizations lose some of their most valuable data. In this blog we will talk about the value of categorizations in driving successful service management initiatives.

The Great Sort

Organizations that implement ITIL practices like a formal, well-governed Incident Management process quickly build a fairly large “haystack” of incident data. Effective use of Incident categorization helps us make sense of that data, not only in the context of resolving a particular incident, but more tactically in helping us assess potential weak areas for availability and performance improvements. Categorization serves as a great sort, allowing us to filter our knowledge base, identify potential incident resolutions among previous incidents, problems, known errors, and other solutions or knowledge articles. Not only is this helpful in quickly assigning incidents to an appropriate support organization, but also readily enables effective reporting and drives continual improvement activities.

A strategic mistake – dividing and conquering ourselves

When any organizations implement a new ITSM tool, they almost immediately begin trying to turn it into the previous tool they just stopped using! Nowhere is this more true then in the political warfare over “custom” categorizations. I’ve seen organizations take more than 18 months fighting over exactly what the custom categorizations ought to look like. At the end, they tend to produce a complex “camel” when a horse was needed. The rule of thumb in these circumstances is a simple one: less is more! In general, there is no data sort or reporting you’ll ever want from one of these tools that you can get through some overly complex customized categorization that you can’t also get using the defaults and exactly one keyword. Save the money on categorization complexity (you have to pay to reimplement after each tools update!) and spend it instead on building better tailored reporting capabilities your service owners, availability managers, and capacity planners can better use to size quality of service and drive iterative improvement.