IT Governance

Tweak Your ITSM Strategy with a Little Math

For IT service management, the second best thing about the help desk is that you can always hire more support staff. The best thing is that you don’t have to! In a post at his blog, Joe the IT Guy describes the staffing efficiencies to be gained by a “little bit” of math. In this case, we refer to the Erlang C traffic model, a formula invented to calculate the probability that a customer will need to queue for service. It looks like this.

Yes, it does look quite intimidating. Fortunately there are free Erlang C calculators available on the Internet. You don’t actually have to do the math yourself. Let’s discuss how the Erlang C helps with ITSM efficiency.

But What Can it Do?

First off, it helps one fully utilize an understaffed department. It improves the overall customer experience, reducing the number of abandoned calls. Conversely, it can help keep costs down by ensuring that help desks are not overstaffed. It also helps service desk managers to forecast, to respond to customers by making service changes.

Joe cautions us not to use an Erlang C calculator “in anger,” but really he just wants us to become better acquainted with its many benefits:

Most Erlang C calculator tools work with a number of IT help desk operational variables such as: average call volumes, average talk times, agent availability, average and maximum wait time, and abandonment rates, plus things like the average time spent on post-call administration (often called the wrap-up time).

You can use it to understand things like optimal number of agents based on seasonal traffic patterns, number of expected calls per day, average and maximum wait times, ratio of queue times to talk times, queue waits based on staff availability, and so on. In brief, it is a remedy for the regrettable staffing legacies of previous help desk management. Enjoy.

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Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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