The Incident Management Process is a collection of steps to quickly reinstate an IT service as efficiently as possible. Incident Management is a key component of the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library — a collection of recommended practices for IT activities) lifecycle of IT. Incident Management is one of the most important IT support steps, as it is crucial in ensuring seamless, uninterrupted service, the backbone of any IT business. For this reason, firms need to ensure they have a water-tight plan to counter IT disruptions with minimal damage.
Need for Best Practices
An ‘incident’ as defined in IT can entail a major system crashing, such as payroll. Hence, Incident Management (IM) remains one of the most critical parts of any firm’s IT support strategy. Take a look at a succinct explanation and detailed steps of the incident management process as outlined by Pulpstream, a firm that offers businesses a low-code, state-of-the-art application development platform, and world-class cloud-native solutions.
In recognition of the criticality of incident management, many firms have at least a basic incident management process in place. But a lot of firms ignore the process or skip over key elements until a real incident actually hits their services. Best practices in incident management are aimed at tackling this gap between having a process in place and making sure it actually works.
Major incidents, or critical IT outages, can cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour of disruption. Having a tested IM process that actually works can reduce losses. It also reduces the time needed to get back to baseline. It can ensure better communication between departments and a focus on continued learning and development. Finally, it also ensures businesses keep complacency — that silent killer of progress — at bay. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices that can help keep this complacency at bay.
Incident Management Best Practices
Best practices in IM seek to close gaps between theory and practice so that when the inevitable incident actually occurs, businesses can move swiftly to mitigate the damage.
Define the Incident Accurately
Make sure that if an outage causes a huge impact on a large group of users, then you label it as a ‘major’ incident. Doing so ensures that the organization sets it as a high priority. Define the incident based on the parameters of urgency, impact, and severity.
Ensure All-Inclusive Support
Offer users the ability to create tickets and log incidents through a number of channels, such as email, chat, and portal. This multi-channel support can ensure faster tickets as well as lower frustration.
Ensure Air-Tight Workflows
Knowing exactly what steps need to be taken by whom is half the battle. Create and implement a robust workflow and ensure your team knows to follow it meticulously. Have separate workflows for major incidents. Automate to save time.
Automate As Much as You Can
Automation is your friend. It saves time and resources, especially when things go south. You can automate processes like assigning tickets to the team member most likely to solve it. This saves the time that some other team member might take to reinvent the wheel with regard to that issue.
You can also look into the automation of communication and escalation procedures. You can do this by clearly categorizing incidents based on the service undergoing outage, region, external or internal, and the number of users dealing with the outage.
Assign Correct Resources
Decide in advance if you would like a dedicated team for IM, or if you’d like to pull in expert resources as per the availability at that time. The former makes sense if you anticipate a higher frequency of major incidents. If you’re opting for the latter, make sure key personnel know in advance how to respond.
Train Your Team
Continued learning and development are keys to any good IM process. Training can include the latest IT software management certifications. Offer your team the right equipment they have easy and full access to, such as a seamless network and Internet, tablets, and smartphones.
Because an incident can strike anytime, help your team learn to deal with the pressure by guiding them through simulation tests. These tests will also help you identify which areas individual team members need to be trained in.
Ensure Stakeholders Stay Informed
To make sure a system outage is handled correctly both internally and from the customers’ point of view, ensure you keep all stakeholders in the outage correctly informed. It might sound like delivering bad news, but it is better to inform in advance rather than letting people get a nasty surprise, thus frustrating them even more. When you inform them, let them know the steps you are taking and the expected time for resolution. Send emails or automated notifications and status updates. If a system is time-critical, ensure team members know to use more urgent means of communicating such as using the phone or directly walking up.
Perform a Root Cause Analysis
Once the outage is taken care of, it is a good idea to do a root cause analysis of the major incident to find out exactly what went wrong. Once this is done, make sure the learnings are applied organization-wide to prevent similar outages. Tweak internal procedures to align with the new learnings.
Document and Share the Solution
Note down all the details of every step taken to resolve the outage. Share this knowledge file with your employees. Note down the role played by team members in solving each step, so in the future, your team knows to contact team members who have solved similar issues when the next outage strikes. Create separate knowledge files for separate major incidents and tag them accordingly.
Analyze Your Reports
Analyze your major incident reports. You can look for:
- Areas that need improving.
- Whether there is a pattern in the incidents. For example, more incidents in a certain system, or during a certain time of the year.
Now that you have taken a look at the best practices in the incident management process, and the need for them, make sure you implement these to protect your business and ensure seamless and uninterrupted services.
About the Author
Martin Brown is a digital marketing and digital asset management specialist. He has been in the industry for over a decade, helping people understand digital technology and apply them to their business. Martin is married with three children. He enjoys playing basketball and scuba diving during his leisure time.