The proper distribution of tickets and workload is a key factor in providing rapid resolution and enhanced user experience in all enterprises. It used to be that assignments would go through several iterations and many conversations, sometimes even with end-user involvement, until the task finally landed on the proper agent to work on it. All of this is time-consuming, error-prone, and both a bottleneck and a single point of failure in the process. As an illustration of the nature of the challenge, consider the steps involved in finding an agent with the appropriate language skills in a multi-language environment.

The ServiceNow® Advanced Work Assignment (AWA) feature is a way to cleverly automate your workload distribution. Assigning work items to your agents is based on their availability, capacity, and optionally, skills. AWA uses queues, routing conditions, and assignment criteria to select the best-qualified agent for the task.

AWA Overview

Figure 1. AWA Overview (Source:

AWA was introduced with the Madrid release in early 2019 as a way to manage agents’ ITSM tasks. In recent releases, it has become available across the whole platform to take advantage of the huge benefits it offers.

AWA functionality is available and embedded into the Workspace environment, which is an advanced UI created and enhanced for fulfillers and agents. There is a dedicated inbox section where fulfillers and agents can monitor incoming tasks and requests. Agent availability is set according to their schedules and includes omnichannel presence, but the system also allows the agent to set their presence across one or more channels.

Agent availability

Figure 2. Agent availability in Workspace Inbox

Customers can interact with ServiceNow through different service channels such as incidents, cases, walk-ups, and chats. When the customer makes a request, a work item is created. This is a single piece of work that can be handled by an agent from start to finish.

Advanced Work Assignment allows the system to push work to agents. It uses configurable criteria to automatically route work items to queues that focus on various support channels. This lets the platform enforce assignments to the proper group or agents.

Queues collect and store a specific type of work item for a dedicated service channel. Queues can be configured to focus on a certain type of support, such as VIP customers or critical cases. AWA routes work items to queues based on specific conditions or requirements that you define, such as customer status or region. Groups assigned to each queue then handle the incoming work items. Once work items are placed in a queue, AWA can assign items to available agents based on assignment rules, agent availability, and capacity. In each queue, there is a possibility to set a timer that allows agents to respond to the work item.

Agent capacity is also configurable. Agent capacity is the maximum number of work items on a particular service channel that an agent may actively work on at one time. Another characteristic that is measured and managed by the platform is the agent affinity. There are three major types of affinities:

  • Historical affinity, in which AWA tries to identify the best agent based on the agent's history of serving the same customer;
  • Related task affinity, in which AWA tries to identify the best agent based on the agent's past assignments on related tasks.
  • Account team affinity, in which AWA tries to identify the best agent based on the agent's responsibility or role in the account team.

If multiple rules are relevant, they can be ordered to be able to achieve the maximum result for this capacity.

Another adjustment is the possibility to set up the layout of the inbox. This is set in a configuration tied to a service channel that defines which fields of a record representing a work item are shown in agent inboxes. A layout defines what the agent sees in their corresponding Workspace area.

Workspace with 2 items

Figure 2. Agent availability in Workspace Inbox

If a work item is rejected, the agent must provide a reason, such as being in a phone call with another customer. When a rejection occurs or the job is timed out, the work item is returned back to the queue to find the next available agent. Whenever an entry is missed by an agent or is timed out, AWA automatically marks the status of the user to ‘away’ to avoid sending additional assignments to them until they are available again.

After an agent accepts a work item, all relevant information is available to them, including historical data. During fulfillment, there may be a need for additional skills to complete the request; in this case, rerouting is an option.

Skill-based routing and assignment is an advanced part of AWA. One example of its usage is when a chat is initiated from a specific location, a required language skill can automatically be added to the conversation. This means that there is no need for separate dedicated queues only to the required skill - availability and capacity should be measured to properly route this work item.

AWA Overflow Strategy is another key feature. It automatically kicks in when one of the channels becomes overloaded - a backup group of agents can be utilized to work on the items. In this instance, cases are automatically routed to secondary or tertiary support groups to help take on work. There are two major benefits that this brings: First there is no proliferation of separate queues, which offers simpler queue management. Secondly, the work item stays in the queue, which means the integrity of the queue reports and work item reports is maintained. This is a very powerful concept which few competing products can match.

Advanced Work Assignment provides dedicated reports and dashboards, which enable managers to monitor work item handling so that agents can better support customer needs.

Advanced Work Assignment

Figure 4. Advanced Work Assignment dashboard for Operations

The helpdesk or call center manager and team leads are the most experienced people within the team and their time is critical. By utilizing this feature they can be freed up from manual assignment to focus on monitoring, coaching, and training agents, which would be a better use of their time.

From a customer standpoint, there is less wait time and improved customer satisfaction, also known as CSAT.

This article was written by Bulcsu Boros, Principal ServiceNow Consultant at GuideVision.

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