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Best practices for IT incident management

IT Incident Management Best Practices

Today, many digital technologies in IT can operate with minimal human intervention. However, while they boost productivity and drive growth, any failure or unpredictable behavior can pose a significant challenge for the ITOps and DevOps teams. So, effective IT incident management helps minimize the impact of incidents on business operations and ensures that systems are restored as quickly as possible.

An IT incident can be defined as an event that results in a disturbance or decline in the performance of IT services, leading to possible loss of service availability. IT incident management is a systematic approach to detect, evaluate, resolve, and prevent IT incidents to reduce their adverse effects on business operations.

ITOps and DevOps teams need a clear roadmap to design, implement, and operate the incident management process; IT incident management best practices provide a framework for managing IT incidents efficiently and effectively. The primary objective of these practices is to ensure the faster resolution of incidents while minimizing their impact on business operations and preventing their reoccurrence.


The most common challenges of incident management

A robust incident management plan helps you deal with incidents confidently, mitigate the damage they inflict, and offer opportunities to learn and improve after the incident. Although IT teams face a number of challenges that impact operations, understanding these hurdles helps the teams prepare themselves and gives valuable insights into improving the incident management process. So, let’s dive into some of the most common challenges of incident management:

Poor communication and collaboration

In the event of a significant incident within the company, it is crucial to communicate promptly and efficiently. The key to success is to involve the right individuals and select the most appropriate communication channels to reach them.

This can be a complicated task as it involves establishing a process for identifying the relevant teams and zeroing in on the best communication methods. So, the organization should have a clearly defined process for communicating the incident to the respective team.

Sometimes organizations encounter too many alerts, leaving the ITOps teams to funnel them into email boxes just to manage the volume. This requires constant human monitoring in order to prioritize incidents and escalate them accordingly. Also, alerts may be sent many times, causing an overflow of messages that hamper collaboration.

Lack of resources

Sometimes the IT personnel are deployed on other projects, and getting the right people at the right place can be challenging. Additionally, many organizations are not equipped with the right tools to handle incident management. For instance, a lack of self-help tools or knowledge base can cause delays in the identification of the incident.

Sometimes the tools may be up-to-date, but the network operations center (NOC) is unable to use them efficiently because of a lack of adequate training.

Insufficient context about the incident

Another common problem encountered by incident responders is the lack of context regarding the incident. When there is little or no contextual information, it becomes difficult for the IT teams to comprehend the extent of the issue, conduct the initial diagnosis, evaluate the priority, and communicate with other responders and customers.

High cost of operations

In the absence of a proper incident management strategy, an organization can incur significant costs when it comes to debugging issues and other incident management operations.

Organizations need a comprehensive IT incident management strategy incorporating the best practices to address these challenges. This strategy comprises incident management procedures, roles and responsibilities of the response teams, communication protocol, and training programs for employees. It also defines the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure the effectiveness of the incident response.

Best practices for improving incident management

Focus on early detection

Although identifying an incident is one of the most challenging tasks in the incident management process, faster detection helps in better management.

The events and alerts received by the NOC can give crucial early details about the incident to benefit the triage and mitigation process. So, it is essential for the staff to configure the correct data fields and event tags that facilitate automated classification. Additionally, similar alerts should be grouped together to prevent repeated alerts regarding the same incidents from increasing noise and distracting the team.

Proactively inspecting operations for any impending issues also helps pinpoint the exact problems that may arise and those that might turn into serious incidents. Any problems discovered in the process, such as tools sending misconfigured alerts, should be surfaced to the team so they can be solved. Following all these guidelines ensures faster identification and streamlines the incident response process.

Ensure correct categorization

Sometimes the L1 team cannot resolve the issue, so categorization ensures that it is escalated to the correct team for effective resolution. Very often, incidents are not appropriately categorized, resulting in wasted investigation effort and delays. So, it is essential to categorize the incident correctly to make the incident management process more efficient.

When an incident can only be classified into a specific category, it is easy to get valuable information from the knowledge base. The analyst can look out for known errors, incidents, and problems within that particular category. This also provides the relevant context for getting more information and makes the process more manageable. In instances where there is no knowledge regarding the incident, categorization is beneficial in identifying the correct escalation path.

Another benefit of categorization is that it helps identify repetitive errors during trend analysis. It is important to note that if the incident management system has more than one category for an incident, it may result in significant trends being missed.

Lastly, correct categorization helps generate insightful reports that help proactively manage incidents. The crucial information from these reports can be used to make informed decisions to improve the quality of the services.

Communicate effectively

A robust incident management plan relies on seamless communication between all the stakeholders. Keeping everyone in the loop throughout the incident management lifecycle is essential. Planning and managing these communications is the key to building trustworthiness and boosting reputation.

The following are the essential considerations for an effective communication plan:

  • Messaging: It is essential to send prompt, informative updates regarding the incident to internal and external stakeholders. The messages should be consistent and aligned with the communication goals.
  • Stakeholder engagement: When it comes to incident communication, honesty and transparency are essential. Being transparent with the stakeholders ensures that unnecessary rumors are put to rest, and everyone gets crucial information regarding incident response and recovery.
  • Accurate and up-to-date information: Ensure that any information provided during the incident management process is timely and correct. Both these aspects can affect the way in which stakeholders perceive the organization and are essential in building trust and confidence.

Provide support across multiple channels

Stakeholders should be able to raise a ticket for an incident across different channels, such as chat, phone, email, portal, etc. After all, everyone has their preferred mode of communication that can be accessed from their device. It helps in ensuring end-user satisfaction.

Also, it is crucial for all internal and external stakeholders to have several channels for incident communication:

  • An exclusive incident status page: Internally, the incident management teams should have a specific page where they can share information regarding the solution. There should be a provision of automatic alerts for the users whenever something new is posted on the page.
  • Email: The users should not only be able to raise a ticket through email but also to subscribe to email updates regarding the resolution of the incident.
  • Chat tool: Chat software has become integral to the incident management process. They consolidate the incident workflow (including reports, plans, and progress) and promote team agility and alignment.
  • SMS: Text messaging is an easy way to reach out to someone immediately. For critical inbound alerts, such as notifications regarding downtime, SMS is often the preferred communication method among users.

Review major incidents routinely

Documenting and analyzing all significant incidents and zeroing in on the areas for improvement aids the team’s ability to handle similar issues in the future. In addition, generating after-action reports specific to major incidents can aid in analysis, evaluation, and decision-making.

Crucial metrics such as the monthly count of major incidents opened and resolved, as well as average time taken to resolve major incidents, should be included in these reports.

It is  best practice to perform a root cause analysis to determine the specific factors that triggered an incident. This comprehensive assessment is beneficial in pinpointing any underlying issues within the infrastructure, revealing potential gaps in organizational workflows, or identifying other factors that may have contributed to the incident.

In addition to identifying the causes of the incident, conducting such an analysis offers valuable insights into the necessary improvements to be made within existing practices and the best methods for implementing them.

Streamline incident management with BigPanda Incident Intelligence and Automation, powered by AIOps

Automating incident management helps in faster and more efficient detection and resolution of critical incidents. AI-driven IT incident management solutions are able to detect and correlate the incidents using artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).

BigPanda Incident Intelligence and Automation, powered by AIOps provides organizations with an efficient and effective solution for IT incident management. Its advanced technology streamlines the incident management process and enables faster incident resolution, ultimately reducing downtime.

Additionally, the platform makes it easy to prioritize and contextualize incidents. It analyzes the impact and urgency of incidents and prioritizes them based on their severity and business impact. It also provides contextual information about the incident, such as the affected services, infrastructure, and stakeholders, enabling teams to make informed decisions and respond quickly.

BigPanda also facilitates collaboration and communication between teams as it provides a centralized platform for incident management and integrates with popular communication and collaboration tools. This enables teams to interact in real time, making it easier to resolve incidents efficiently.

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