What is Incident Management?
Ensuring continuity of IT Services through effective incident management process.
Ensuring continuity of IT Services through effective incident management process.
In today’s world, when businesses increasingly rely on IT services, IT departments need to supply these services continually. Unfortunately, human errors and unexpected technological breakdowns make this hard to achieve. Even big service providers with millions of customers globally, such as Microsoft or Google, encounter service disruptions. Such outages can pose substantial issues for organizations, and restoring service becomes a primary concern.
ITIL is a service management framework that uses the term “incident” to refer to unexpected service interruptions. Incident management is the process responsible for identifying and resolving incidents to restore regular service operations as quickly as possible. It aims to minimize disruption to business operations, reduce negative impacts, and ensure that IT services are restored to regular operation as soon as possible. The process includes incident detection, analysis, and resolution, as well as communication with users about the status of the incident and its solution.
An interruption of a service used by many people will affect various business areas. When the electricity goes off in a huge office building, thousands of users will report issues, with one cause behind them. The term problem stands for a shared reason for a group of incidents. And there is a separate ITSM process for handling problems called problem management. Problem management is a process that helps organizations identify issues that happen over and over again. It examines these issues, tries to find out what causes them, and suggests changes to avoid them in the future.
While incident management primarily consists of reactive measures, problem management is proactive. As a result, it’s easier to maintain incident management practices, whereas problem management often lacks attention. However, remember that if you obtain a bigger picture instead of solving individual issues, you might save your future self and your IT team hours working on repetitive incidents caused by a shared problem.
Incident management is a multi-step process closely related to the lifecycles of individual incidents and includes the following steps:
Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
A user or an automated monitoring tool usually registers most incidents by discovering a service interruption, and event management plays a crucial role in this. Event management helps to identify incidents early on, and it may involve triggering notifications for suspicious or dangerous events, such as installing or uninstalling software, low toner in a printer, or granting access to sensitive data by an unknown person.
In an ideal case, your monitoring system will spot incidents before they can severely affect your IT systems.
While investing in monitoring systems, it’s vital to give end-users various opportunities to report their issues. The communication channels should be straightforward, widely known, and easily accessible. A simple example: users will avoid reaching out if the “report bugs” email address is too long to remember. This might affect the IT system in general because issues will remain unreported.
Keep in mind that user issue reports require double-checking before adding them to the list of incidents, unlike alerts from automated monitoring tools. A user’s bug or issue report might be classified as a service request, even if the user believes they are experiencing a service interruption. For some inquiries, reading an article in the knowledge base might solve the problem, and there is no need to open an incident. That is why many companies have included a “is this really an incident?” step in their incident management workflow.
ITIL requires the collection and documentation of essential details in the incident when it is logged. This helps when the incident is escalated or routed to another team, and for further analysis of multiple incidents from one category. Here is a sample list of the logging data:
Classification and categorization phase of incident management is a critical stage in the incident response process. During this phase, the incident response team identifies and collects information about the incident to determine its severity and impact on the system.
Prioritizing an incident is assigning higher or lower priority to an incident to balance off the support team’s workload. The support team will then address incidents with higher priority first. There will also be a threshold on incidents of a particular priority level for this or that technician at a certain period.
This step involves gathering information about the incident, analyzing the cause of the incident, and determining the appropriate course of action. In multi-level service desks, first-level technicians escalate incidents to higher support levels if the former can’t resolve them. Workflow management helps to automate escalation and re-assignment.
During the resolution phase of incident management, the incident response team implements a solution to restore services to their normal state and communicates the resolution to relevant stakeholders.
During the closure phase, the service desk employees document the incident, including its cause, resolution, and officially close it. They are the experts who determine whether the problem has been solved or not, and they are the ones who complete the incident.
After an incident, a post-incident review takes place to gather information about what happened. They figure out why the incident occurred, like mistakes made by people or equipment that didn’t work properly. Then, they make suggestions on how to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, like changing procedures, more training, or buying new equipment.
It’s crucial to conduct the review soon after the incident when the information is fresh. The review team should include people with diverse perspectives, such as those involved in the incident, incident management leaders, and subject matter experts.
A major incident is an event that causes a significant impact on an organization, its customers, or its stakeholders and requires immediate attention to prevent further damage. It can take many forms, from natural disasters to cyber attacks. It can result in severe financial, operational, or reputational losses.
Identifying a major incident involves a structured approach and a designated team with the right skills and experience. Typically, it begins with an incident and someone reporting it to the Incident Management Team. The Incident Management Team then assesses the incident. It assigns it to the appropriate team, the Major Incident Team.
Major incidents have a lifecycle different from usual ones because the resolution phase demands the most attention and time. The Major Incident Team, a dedicated team responsible for managing major incidents, then reviews the incident and determines whether it qualifies as a major incident. The group considers various factors, such as the number of people impacted, the business’s potential losses, and the urgency.
Suppose the team decided that the incident qualifies as a major incident. In that case, they escalate it to Major Incident Manager to lead the resolution process. The assigned team begins the resolution process by drawing up a plan and coordinating efforts to resolve the incident. Once the incident is resolved, a post-incident review is conducted to evaluate the resolution process and identify areas for improvement.
It may seem evident that incident management brings enormous value to the business by resolving current issues and preventing new ones. Moreover, ITIL describes incident management as one of those ITSM practices that are relatively easy to promote within the organization. Indeed, the absence of an effective incident management process will be visible very soon. We know that the visible outcomes of a technology solution get a buy-in easier than the description of the technology itself.
But not all benefits of incident management are that obvious. Let’s look at an extended list:
Incident management helps the organization to have less downtime because of unexpected incidents, which means that clients can use the services more often without any problems. This also means that the organization can make more money because they won’t lose revenue due to service disruptions.
Incident management teams work together to resolve incidents, improving communication and coordination across the organization.
Incident management provides a clear view of the incident response process, including what actions were taken and by whom.
Incident management that works well reduces the effort required from IT and the business. Reducing incident resolution time through proper workflow automation results in cost savings.
Incident management helps organizations comply with regulations and industry standards.
Being able to quickly respond to user needs is one of the benefits of incident management. It also helps to identify areas for improving services by maintaining ongoing communication with end-users.
Improved performance and efficiency can result from the high visibility of Incident Management to the business, which makes it easier to promote less commonly used ITSM practices when presenting results.
By minimizing disruptions and supporting continued operation during and after incidents, incident management helps to ensure that businesses can function effectively even in challenging circumstances.
By reducing the impact of problems and supporting ongoing operation during and after unexpected events, organizations can continue to function well even in difficult circumstances.
A dedicated incident management team should be responsible for managing and resolving incidents. It should consist of individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to effectively manage and resolve incidents. Using this approach, the incident management team can handle incidents promptly and efficiently without being influenced by other teams’ priorities or limitations.
To effectively manage incidents, it’s essential to have the right tools and software. Incident management software can play a critical role in streamlining the process and reducing the time and effort required to resolve issues. Preferably the software should have features like incident tracking, assignment, prioritization, notifications, and reporting to cover all aspects of incident management.
Capturing and documenting the information on the resolution of an incident creates a valuable resource that specialists can use for future reference. This information can include the cause of the incident, the steps taken to resolve it, and any lessons learned. The knowledge base can help to save time and reduce the number of future incidents.
Clearly defined incident escalation procedures are essential for ensuring that the most appropriate team member handles incidents. The process helps to ensure that incidents are resolved promptly and efficiently and that the right level of expertise is brought to bear on each incident.
An incident reporting system allows you to track the incidents and analyze the data to identify patterns and trends. In the future, this information can help users to improve incident management processes and make suggestions for organizational change.
Read more about incident management best practices.