Who Sets the Priority?

I often get this question at staff workshops and throughout the year.

Who prioritizes the HelpDesk requests?

How do you answer this question as an IT Professional?

Before you blurt out the answer to your staff you need to remember that the questioner is often upset or disappointed in service recently received or not received. Take that into account before you answer with something like:

I do, do you have a problem with that?

Very rarely will that help the situation. Whether you like it or not, when you take a job in IT, you are in a service job and must act like someone who works in service. That means, you must be polite and you must let angry people and comments go. Your job is to keep the peace and get the job done. Your job is also to keep people calm. If you aren’t calm, how can anybody else be calm about the situation.

This brings me back to answering the question of who sets the priority. Answer the question honestly and confidently. If your district has put you in charge of the IT Department then it is your job to prioritize the HelpDesk.

Your best bet is to answer the question with a confident response of:

I set the priority of all HelpDesk requests based on this criteria.

Answering in this way answers their next question before they can ask it. In the end what the questioner really wants to know is how they can get their requests put at the top of the list. If you can catch the question before it’s asked you can usually diffuse any further conflict in the conversation.

We answered the first question but the second question is the one that will actually get more scrutiny, and you better have a good answer that makes sense, otherwise you’ve lost your credibility and your HelpDesk. You need to remember that your staff are just as intelligent as you are, and they can see through a poor excuse. They may not know all the technical aspects of how your job works, but they know when they’re being brushed off. Don’t let that happen.

Your Answer Should Be

We base priority on the following criteria:

  1. Safety of staff & students
  2. Quantity of staff & students affected
  3. Order HelpDesk requests are created

The ultimate goal is to give staff a feeling of confidence that their IT Department will treat everyone fairly and consistently. Never allow your department to drop everything for one 3rd grade teacher but nobody else. Rather make all wait the same amount of time. This can and will cause some conflicts, but most people will respect your department more if they see and hear the same message.

What if my priority criteria is questioned?

Saying this is your method for prioritizing and doing it go hand-in-hand. If you tell people this is how you prioritize but don’t follow through, people will catch on. Some may ask what you mean by each of those items. Your answer should be short and simple. 

  1. If a request is submitted that affects the safety of staff or students that becomes top priority.
  2. Requests that affect more people get higher priority over those that affect only one.
  3. The order in which requests are received will determine any and all priority once priority 1 and 2 requests have been determined.

 It is important to note that some requests can be resolved quicker than others, and often it is legitimate to resolve a quick question or setting change right away. There are always instances in which this will take place, but you should never go on to an easier problem and leave a hard problem just because it was a difficult or time-consuming problem.

Be Smart, Strategize

At the end of the day it’s your department, but your staff are your customers. If the staff aren’t happy, then you haven’t run your department very well. IT is much more than just technology, it requires people skills, leadership, mentoring, teaching, and service all in one. If you don’t like people, people won’t like you.  Make sure you’re personable, tactful, smart, and calculated in your approach to running your department and your helpdesk and you’ll be successful.



3 thoughts on “Who Sets the Priority?

      • I plan on looking at options when things slow down…. Probably looking at January – 2012. (HA) No, seriously – might be a good SEMTEC discussion to see options.


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