What is IT incident management? How can AIOps optimize it?

9 min read
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Imagine you’re in the middle of a critical project, and suddenly, your system crashes. Or perhaps it’s the middle of the night, and your server goes down, affecting countless users. Some IT incidents are inevitable, but the way you manage them makes all the difference in minimizing their impact. 

You know that proper incident management is critical – and that incidents can become costly. Research indicates that organizations can lose as much as $12,900 per minute on average during an outage. These service interruptions not only cost an organization thousands of dollars but also hurt the customer experience and affect business productivity. 

IT incident management is the process of identifying, analyzing, and fixing incidents to restore service operations as soon as possible. The goal is to minimize the impact on the business, increase productivity, and prevent business-threatening situations. 

Read on to learn more about:

  • What is an IT incident?
  • What is the goal of incident management?
  • Key roles in IT incident management
  • Incident management in ITIL
  • What is the five-step IT incident management process?
  • How to optimize your IT incident management with AIOps

What is an IT incident?

An IT incident is any unplanned disruption or degradation of IT services. ITOps teams regularly deal with incidents, which can include software or hardware failure, email malfunction, security issues, user errors, or, at worst, become an outage. Incidents are not to be confused with IT events or problems. 

  • An ‘incident’ is any non-scheduled disruption or degradation of IT services.
  • An ‘event’ is any observable occurrence in an IT system that can indicate normal operations or a potential error. However, not all events necessarily lead to incidents.
  • A ‘problem’ is the underlying root cause of one or multiple incidents, hinting at a deeper issue in the IT infrastructure. 

According to ITIL guidelines, problem management focuses on preventing or reducing incidents, while incident management handles real-time issue resolution. 

What is the goal of incident management?

Your company needs to be equipped to handle IT incidents – or run the risk of costly outages and unhappy customers. Unfortunately, many organizations also have manual processes for managing incidents that are challenged to keep up with fast-paced, agile methodologies or hybrid cloud environments.

Modern enterprises have an incident management team that handles unplanned disruptions and malfunctions. Establishing a clear incident management team and processes helps to manage disruptions and maintain the service quality agreed upon within SLAs. A clearly defined strategy is instrumental for ensuring that incidents are resolved in a timely and effective manner. It also helps prevent future incidents and improve the existing operations.

Incident management in ITIL

Incident management is a significant component of IT infrastructure library (ITIL) service support. ITIL incident management provides the framework for minimizing the negative impact of incidents by restoring services as soon as possible after the incident.

Successful ITIL incident management necessitates clear roles among stakeholders. The incident manager oversees the process and ensures timely resolution per the service-level agreement. 

Support levels range from the service desk or Network Operations Center (NOC) for initial contact and basic troubleshooting to technical teams equipped for swift resolutions using incident management tools, and finally, the hardware/software engineering teams addressing specific system issues.

What is the five-step IT incident management process?

The incident management process includes procedures and actions for responding to and resolving incidents. This process outlines who the concerned stakeholders for responding are, how incidents are detected and conveyed to the IT team, and the various tools used for resolving the incidents.

The incident management process involves five steps. These steps are crucial in determining that all the aspects of the incident are addressed. 

Step 1: Incident identification

Incidents can be spotted through user alerts, infrastructure metrics, or unusual behavior detection. Regardless of its origin, the service desk team logs it, noting key details and assigning a unique ID for tracking.

Incident intelligence tools swiftly detect and alert about anomalies, ensuring quick responses and fewer escalations. Effective incident management tools can significantly reduce resolution time.

Step 2: Incident categorization

Incident response begins after triaging according to company protocols. Proper triaging prevents misclassification risks. Incidents are grouped for easier tracking and addressing user impacts. After categorization, it’s essential to reference past your incidents for insights. Categorization streamlines information gathering and diagnosis, enhancing incident management efficiency. Until the incident is resolved, these categories guide escalation. Escalation success hinges on accurate categorization and clear responsibilities. Having the right tools ensures effective categorization and transparent escalation.

Step 3: Incident prioritization

Enterprises use priority matrices to rank incidents based on importance, aiding service-desk analysts in understanding response urgency and setting customer expectations. When an incident is logged, it’s assigned a prioritization code based on business impact and response urgency. The impact is gauged by the number of affected users, the severity of their disruption, and the significance of the disrupted service. 

Key impact factors include the number of affected end-users, potential revenue loss or resolution cost, and affected IT systems. Urgency relates to resolution time, SLA targets, and the criticality of the service. Efficient triage requires context, which can be challenging without adequate information or poor system visibility. Incident intelligence tools automate triage, facilitating incident prioritization based on criticality to streamline resolution and keep stakeholders informed.

The following three factors can determine the impact of an incident:

  • The number of customers or end-users affected
  • The loss of revenue or the cost required for incident resolution
  • The number of services or IT systems affected

Step 4: Incident response

Incident response is a structured approach that guides IT teams through incident resolution. Following incident identification, categorization, and prioritization, the team works to contain the incident, preventing further damage. 

If unresolved, the issue is escalated for deeper analysis. Key steps include gathering and analyzing data and performing a root cause analysis (RCA) to pinpoint the incident’s origin, aiming to reduce the MTTR.

Be sure to document your incident solution and the probable root cause in your knowledge base or Configuration Management Database (CMDB). In your CMDB, incident records can be associated with their relevant CIs, helping teams track incidents over time alongside the assets they impact. Crucially, your incident response plans should be dynamic, regularly updated, and incorporate real-time user feedback to stay effective.

Step 5: Incident closure

The final step in incident management is closure. Closure is established through documentation and assessment of response actions. This evaluation identifies improvement areas, aiding proactive measures for future incidents and bolstering organizational resilience. 

Rechecking the incident’s initial categorization is vital; misclassifications can increase MTTR. 

Once the closure checklist is complete, a detailed report is shared with stakeholders, enhancing trust. Automation can streamline closure, setting a wait period post-resolution before auto-closing. If an incident recurs shortly after closure, it may be reopened; however, if a longer duration elapses, a new incident is typically logged. 

You’ve now successfully completed your incident management process. This can often be a long, time and resource-intensive process with many stakeholders. Yes, incident management is challenging, but with AIOps, it doesn’t have to stay this way. 

How to optimize IT incident management with AIOps

To remain productive and efficient, enterprises must focus on optimizing and using best practices for their incident management. This means automating as much as possible to rapidly identify, assess, and resolve the issue. 

Clearly defining, optimizing, and using AI to automate these processes is critical for faster, smarter resolution – and to manage team workloads. Here’s how AIOps optimizes traditional practices:

Prioritize early detection with AI insights

AIOps facilitates your NOC or ITOps teams to recognize incidents more rapidly. By utilizing AI-driven workflow management tools and analyzing patterns from knowledge bases, incidents can be identified earlier on and presented to IT staff more efficiently, saving crucial time.

Enhance categorization with Machine Learning

AIOps ensures incidents are precisely categorized using Machine Learning (ML). This not only accelerates the management process but reduces human error. By analyzing historical data, AIOps can predict the nature of an incident, ensuring the right tools and knowledge are accessed promptly.

Streamline workflows using automation

Automate notifications and updates for internal teams and customers using AIOps. AI accelerates incident investigation and resolution by rapidly mobilizing the right teams and experts with automated notifications and ticketing. This ensures timely and consistent updates to the right team at the right time.

Improve incident visibility with data and dashboards

AIOps aids in systematically handling and reviewing major incidents. Advanced analytics and dashboards provide deeper insights into incidents, highlighting recurring patterns and potential workarounds. This not only addresses immediate concerns but assists with visibility and devising proactive strategies.

Iterative learning and continuous improvement

Employ AIOps to turn your incidents into learning opportunities. Use AI and ML to automatically correlate related alerts into high-level incidents using time, topology, context, and alert types.

Automate root cause analysis

Root cause analysis is traditionally used post-outage to discover how to prevent similar outages in the future, maintain an agile environment, improve processes, and eliminate known symptoms. BigPanda enables ITOps teams to automate Root Cause Analysis and fix issues at the source in real-time to greatly reduce MTTR.

BigPanda automates IT incident management for faster resolution

BigPanda AIOps lets you harness the power of AI to detect incidents swiftly and categorize them accurately, streamlining responses and reducing human error. With our AIOps platform, gain high efficiency in automating crucial processes, from notifications to root cause analysis, ensuring timely resolutions and continuous improvement in your IT operations.

See what true incident management excellence, visibility, and optimization look like for yourself in our personalized demo. Enhance your visibility and insights with BigPanda’s advanced analytics and dashboards, and stop your incidents from becoming outages by using AIOps for faster, more proactive incident management.