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Incident vs Service request: How are they different?


The line between an incident and a service request is often quite blurry and causes even the hardcore ITIL geeks among us to explosively disagree. As per ITIL v2, there was no such differentiation, to begin with. All the issues and requests raised by users were collectively grouped together as incidents under incident management. But with the launch of ITIL v3, the framework most service desk software today is based on, incidents split into two categories: service requests and incidents. This differentiation was also accompanied by the new process of request fulfilment, which was introduced specifically to manage service requests.

Difference: Incident vs Service Request


ITIL v3 defines an incident as ‘an unplanned interruption to an IT service or reduction in the quality of an IT service.’ When everything works exactly the way it’s meant to, the service in question operates without a hitch. But when something doesn’t, it causes ‘unplanned interruptions to the service and creates an incident. So the main goal of Incident Management is to provide a quick fix that resolves the interruption and restores the service to its full capacity. These interruptions can be anything from your computer not booting up to the WiFi not working.

Service Request

Service Requests, however, are defined as a formal request from a user for something to be provided – for example, a request for information or advice. In other words, a service request is raised when you want to procure something that you don’t have in the first place. Be it access to the printer or upgrading to a higher version of the software.

Another factor that distinguishes service requests from incidents is that service requests, more than incidents, have a higher possibility of including pre-approved or standard changes. These are the changes that are relatively low risk and don’t require a long process of perusal and approval. For instance, let’s say that it is company policy at an organization to provide every employee with additional storage space when they run out. If this is the case and an employee wants to request extra memory, this is a service request and also a pre-approved, standard change that doesn’t require any further study to be granted.

To Summarize

Identifying these kinds of pre-approved changes in advance can be a huge time saver. This is where distinguishing between service requests and incidents can help you run things better. By categorizing and resolving pre-approved IT changes as service requests, you can ensure that they do not enter an unnecessarily complicated workflow. Also, once you create a strong service request system, you can initiate self-service by adding on a service catalogue that can be utilized by your users to select the exact service that they need. And finally, distinguishing between incident management and service requests can help you in the long run too, because it enables your team to identify the nature of tickets you’re receiving and to decide where your resources are best allocated. This will also help you in reducing your service desk agents stress!

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