Originally written: 2006-03-18 13:25:17
Cleaned up slightly since.
At my place of work, we make heavy use of a modified version of RT. It's particularly important to us in the Research Support Group, because we have to bill our time out. (Rather, we're accountable for it; we don't get paid, nor does our department, on the basis of "hours billed". But we do charge money to the researchers.) My first task when I started, since I lacked a manager and all the other staff were busy, was to just go through all of the open RT items. So I did that - about 900 at the time. I learned a lot of things; not so much about what we did, but how people did them, and how they documented - or didn't - what they'd done.
A couple or three times a month, I do an "RT run", where I go through every open request that I haven't looked at in a while, and decide what to do with it. Usually I just defer it again, but sometimes I'll re-assign it to somebody who seems more appropriate (my boss or another manager), and other times I email the original requestor and say "Do you still want this?" then stall it. Usually I do this Friday afternoons, when motivation to start new things tends to ebb (and starting new things then is foolish anyway).
Every month or two, I go through all my stalled requests and do the same thing. If I see a request that's had a query "do you still want this" and no response, I close it with a "forget" or "timeout". Sometimes a request is stalled because I'm waiting on a vendor response - then if it's been stalled for more than a week or so, I ping the vendor with either another email or telephone call.
Sometimes, I look at a request and decide that it's not going to ever get done. Usually it's so old that the person who requested it has been gone for some time, or even the machine is gone, or some other action has rendered that item superfluous. If the original requestor is still around I ask if they still want it - usually not, but sometimes they do or have a modification - and if they're not and if it's for a group machine, I ask the group point of contact. Infrequently, I silently close the item with "forget" or "timeout" or "sigh".
Confession time: sometimes I go through my boss's queue, and look for items that look like they might reasonably ought to involve me. If I find an old one, I might assign it to myself and take action.
It could be good management practise to do this once a term or so - schedule an hour or two for RT triage, and just go through the queue, viciously stalling or closing requests that obviously won't ever get done. This would be most effective if managers had already done this with individual staff members (either alone or as a group) just before this.
As a related aside, it seems to me that some of our staff members are afraid to close requests unless they've been completed to everybody's satisfaction. I think this attitude is wrong: it ought to be ok to say "Look, would it be ok if this item never got completed?" It's surprising how often the answer to that question is "Yes." Even if it's "I don't need it any more, you guys are too slow," at least we've shown that we're aware of stale requests, and the requestor isn't left with the impression that they're talking into a well.