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Mike - I can add my experiences and limited knowledge as we are new users. Just went into production this week.
We have work schedules setup for most Techs. Most common is 7AM-4PM and 9AM-6PM. So the auto assignment will find all Techs that are available during these scheduled hours and make them eligible for assignment (other factors come into play here too - location, department, load balance, round robin). If no Techs are available, WHD will assign to the (Tech) Group Manager. I setup the Group Manager for all Tech Groups to be our IT Help Desk.
If IT Help Desk gets a ticket, they check the request type against our checklist (in Excel) and if it is not a request they can complete, they look up who is on-call for that Request Type (in the same Excel list) and re-assign the ticket to that person. Depending on priority, the new tech may get a SMS/text or just an e-mail.
This setup allows us to avoid having the Help Desk manually assign all tickets received during the "working" hours.
For your second question - Under Tech Permissions, if the selection for Limit to Assigned Tech Groups is checked, then the Techs can see all tickets. If checked, what they see is limited to the tech groups they are a member of.
Is there a way to limit what a tech sees only to their assigned tickets and not their tech group as well?
I don't think you can prevent thme from seeing tickets assigned to the tech groups they are apart of as this contradicts the purpose of tech groups. You can however check mark "limit to assigned tech groups" it is in tech\tech permissions\ select your group, I think this will prevent them from seeing tickets in groups that they are not apart of.