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What is IT incident management?

What is IT incident management?

Research indicates that, on average, organizations facing outages can lose as much as $12,900 per minute. Service interruptions cost an organization thousands of dollars, hurt customer experience, and affect business productivity. Therefore, an organization needs a clearly defined incident management process to provide an effective and timely resolution and restore normal functioning.

An IT incident can be referred to as a disruption in the IT services of the organization that impacts employees and business operations. For instance, outages, software or hardware failure, email malfunction, security issues, and user errors are some of the incidents that ITOps and DevOps teams deal with regularly.

Incident management is identifying, analyzing, and fixing incidents to restore service operations as soon as possible. The goal is to provide a timely and efficient resolution that will minimize the impact on the business and increase productivity. As an essential component of IT service management (ITSM), it focuses on preventing business-threatening situations.

An organization needs the right tools, policies, and service-level agreements (SLAs) to resolve incidents and identify the root cause to prevent further incidents.


What is the role of incident management?

Today, many enterprises are suffering significant revenue losses and need to be equipped to handle IT incidents or crises. Unfortunately, many organizations also have obsolete ways of managing incidents that don’t involve modern solutions like cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

In order to remain productive and efficient, enterprises must focus on digital incident management to identify, assess, and resolve the issue while communicating effectively with all the stakeholders, including customers, end users, and senior management.

Modern enterprises have an incident management team that handles unplanned disruptions and malfunctions. An IT service desk is the primary point of contact between the organization and its technology. The users report incidents to the service desk, which then prioritizes the issues according to their severity, gathers necessary data, and focuses on timely resolution.

Here are some of the benefits of adding IT incident management to your organization’s IT structure:

Prioritize urgent incidents

An incident’s priority is decided according to its impact on the business. Accordingly, some incidents require a quick resolution, whereas others can be sorted with more consideration. IT incident management helps prioritize urgent incidents and create effective workflows to resolve them in a timely manner.

Boost productivity

Effective incident management ensures that crucial data is logged straightaway and incidents are addressed in real time. The shorter incident lifecycle and reduced downtime help in boosting business productivity. Moreover, engineers can get sufficient time to focus on high-value projects rather than firefighting incidents.

Provide better end-user satisfaction

Having proper guidelines and processes ensures that the incident management team quickly attends to the incidents reported by the end users. It minimizes the negative impact of the incident by restoring regular service as soon as possible. The best incident management teams often detect and resolve issues before they can be perceived by users.

Build trust and transparency

Incident management ensures that all the stakeholders are updated regarding the incident mitigation efforts. It helps the internal teams and the customers understand that the team is trying to resolve the incident as quickly as possible. This cultivates a sense of trust in your team’s ability to handle difficult situations.

Foster a proactive culture

Good incident management focuses on collecting crucial incident data that can be used as a valuable resource. Analyzing and monitoring this data provides important insights that can be used for the prevention of future incidents. It promotes a proactive culture rather than a reactive approach to issue resolution.

What is the IT incident management process?

The incident management process includes procedures and actions that help respond to and resolve 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.

An incident management process aims to manage disruptions and maintain the service quality agreed upon within SLAs. A clearly defined strategy is instrumental in ensuring that all the incidents are resolved in a timely and effective manner. Also, it helps prevent future incidents, thereby improving the existing operations.

The incident management process involves five steps. These steps are crucial in determining that all the aspects of the incident are addressed. Here is a detailed overview of each step:

1. Incident identification

Incidents can be identified through user reports and self-service portals, alerts based on various infrastructure metrics meeting warning thresholds, or alerts caused by detection of anomalous behavior.

No matter the source of the incident, the service-desk team is responsible for identifying and recording it. When logging the incident, they note crucial information such as the date and time the incident was reported, the name of the person who reported the incident, and a description. Accordingly, a unique identification number is assigned to the incident for tracking purposes. All this information will come in handy later when they try to find the root cause of the problem to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

If someone has already logged the incident through your service desk, identification and logging steps have already been completed.

Incident intelligence and automation solutions help in proactively accelerating incident identification. Once the incident intelligence services detect abnormal events, they can alert the concerned individual or team. Moreover, the real-time identification of incidents ensures that they are attended to promptly, thereby reducing escalations.

Having the right incident management tool can help in considerably reducing mean time to resolve (MTTR).

2. Incident categorization

The incident management process ensures that incidents are categorized, prioritized, and triaged before analysis. Incident response can be started only once the incident is triaged according to the organization’s protocols. Triaging is a critical task and needs to be done appropriately, as there are risks of assigning an incident to an incorrect category or priority level.

Categorization involves grouping the incidents into classes. Categorization is beneficial in tracking similar incidents that affect end users and customers.

After categorizing the incident, it is essential to search for problems, known errors, and other similar incidents. Sometimes the incident can be classified in only one way, so it is beneficial to gain prior knowledge in instances where previous information is unavailable.

Categorization helps provide the structure to gather new information to diagnose the incident and categorize the new information. So, categorization is instrumental in giving momentum to the incident management process and making it more efficient.

In instances where the problem cannot be resolved, categorization helps pinpoint the groups to which the specific incident can be escalated. The escalation groups are then linked to specific categories and help the enterprise identify and eliminate errors in the escalation process.

Proper escalation depends on the categorization assigned to an incident and the person responsible for response procedures. Ensure that you have the right tools and resources to help categorize and manage the incidents, increasing efficiency and ensuring more transparency in the escalation process.

3. Incident prioritization

Enterprises employ a priority matrix to prioritize incidents and requests. A priority matrix establishes the importance of an incident for the service-desk analyst so that they understand how quickly a problem needs to be addressed. Moreover, it helps them set the right expectations with customers and stakeholders regarding resolution timing.

As the incident is reported in the system, a prioritization code is assigned to it. This code determines how the team handles the incident. The incidents are prioritized by assessing their impact on the business and the urgency of response required.

The impact of the incident is determined by the number of users affected, how badly they are affected, and how vital these users are. For example, an incident has a high impact if more users are impacted and have lost their ability to use an important service that generates high revenue for the business. 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

The urgency of the incident is proportional to the expected time for resolution. Urgency also depends on the service-level targets in the SLA. For instance, if you have promised your customers that the service interruptions will be fixed in a given number of hours, then the team has that specific time to restore services.

Urgency also depends on how critical the service is. Incidents with high urgency are the ones that affect the areas critical to the business. Another important consideration is the time and resources required to resolve the problem. For instance, an incident that may not be critical but can be resolved within a limited time and using fewer resources is a high-priority incident. The incidents are categorized as critical, high, medium, or low based on priority.

Very often, incidents do not have the necessary context required to conduct triage. Triaging an incident helps you determine priority, share the incident with stakeholders, and merge duplicate incidents. When you don’t have crucial information about the customer, services, or relative severity levels, it becomes difficult to track this information. Resorting to spreadsheets and runbooks may waste your time.

An incident intelligence and automation solution enables automatic incident triage without tracking down many resources and wasting time manually calculating crucial business metrics. Moreover, it makes it easier to assign priority levels to an incident based on criticality. These tools can also figure out the resources required to resolve an incident, depending on your incident management process.

Prioritizing incidents helps take appropriate action for resolving them and provides necessary context regarding the incident to the stakeholders. An incident’s priority gives a clear indication of the prior assessments.

4. Incident response

Incident response is a systematic approach to helping IT teams prepare for incident resolution. Depending on the type of incident and its severity, the incident response may involve multiple stages to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again.

Once the incident has been identified, categorized, and prioritized, the incident management team focuses on containing it to control the situation and prevent further damage. In some instances, the response team may be unable to find the solution, so the incident is escalated to a different team carrying out further investigation and troubleshooting. An effective incident management solution keeps track of the incidents and the respective team assigned for resolution.

Most of the effort in understanding the incident is made during this phase. Crucial information regarding the incident is gathered from tools and systems and is further analyzed.

The IT incident management team performs a root cause analysis (RCA). It is a systematic process for detecting and identifying the primary cause of a problem or an event. RCA focuses on the how, where, and why of an incident. After all, an effective system is about dealing with problems and identifying the root causes to prevent further problems.

The aim of root cause analysis is to reduce the mean time to resolution (MTTR). A configuration management database (CMDB) enables better management of tickets by associating the asset with the corresponding ticket. It is also instrumental in maintaining asset relationships and mechanisms for auto-discovery.

A knowledge base is another beneficial feature that helps with resolution. It is basically a repository of information containing solutions that help in first-contact resolution.

Whether temporary or permanent, the solution aims to recover the operations and prevent further losses. Timely and effective resolutions can help fix system outages and improve customer satisfaction.

Automation is the key here. The enterprise should focus on automating the reporting and response aspect of the incident as much as possible, as it helps achieve higher efficiency. A data-driven approach to assess the impact of alert quality and noise reduction is instrumental in speeding up incident response.

Moreover, the incident response plan should be evolving and active. Many enterprises have an incident response plan in place but do not review it on a timely basis. Reviewing the plan and regularly updating it is instrumental in preparing yourself for future incidents. Also, you need to be in tune with live scenarios from end users and incorporate it into your incident response plan frequently.

5. Incident closure

The service desk closes the incident, which is the last step in the incident management process and includes many activities.

Incident closure focuses on finalizing documentation and assessing the different steps taken while responding to the incident. Document the key learnings and ensure they feed into the system architecture and risk management.

It helps them zero in on the areas of improvement and be proactive regarding future incidents. It also enables the teams to develop effective solutions. An organization becomes resilient as it learns how to anticipate, respond to, and adapt to each incident.

Verification of the initial categorization of the incident is also an essential activity in the closure checklist. Here you check the original category or affected services mentioned in the classification phase of the incident. If the initial categorization is wrong, the request must be re-routed to the correct team, wasting time and effort. This leads to an increase in MTTR. So, assessing categorization during closure helps the team learn from the mistakes.

After completing all the activities in the closure checklist, a report is generated and shared with the admin teams, board members, and other stakeholders. This report gives insight into the whys and the hows of the incident. It also helps build trust with the people who have been affected by the incident.

You can also share customer satisfaction surveys that help gather information regarding the quality of the service from the end user.

It is good to automate incident closure by configuring incident properties. You can specify the days the system must wait after the resolution to auto-close the incident.

In some cases, the incident can be reopened. For instance, if the incident reoccurs 12 hours or 24 hours after closure, the original incident must be reopened. Generally, after the two-hour window has been surpassed, a new incident is logged rather than reopening the initial incident.

BigPanda Incident Intelligence and Automation, powered by AIOps, helps enterprises in the various stages of the IT incident management process. The robust AI/ML-driven alert correlation engine lets you identify the incident in real time. The software adds operational and business context to the data so that ITOps teams are equipped with all the information that helps them sort, filter, visualize, and act on incidents.

The platform is equipped with an actionable and customizable interface that lets you view the incidents and analyze their impact on the business. The interface provides a correlated and enriched view of the incidents that help you zero in on the root cause to take appropriate action.

Another essential feature of the console is that it makes it easy to collaborate with other team members and create quick and effective solutions.

Incident management best practices

If your organization wants to minimize business disruptions and restore normal functioning quickly and effectively, here are a few best practices you need to follow:

Focus on earlier detection

It is important for the network operations center (NOC) or the support team to identify the incidents quickly to ensure timely resolution. For this to happen, the NOC should have access to workflow management tools, customer portals, necessary documentation, and knowledge bases. This will enable the NOC to identify the incident and present it to the staff in a consolidated manner.

Ensure correct categorization

Ensure that you define the incidents clearly and categorize them according to the nature and type of incident. Proper categorization speeds up the incident management process by providing insight into who is affected and what is impacted. It also helps access the right tools and knowledge for resolution.

However, even the best-defined categorization is prone to error, so the ITOps team should be trained to categorize the incidents correctly.

Communicate effectively

Ensure you inform and update the internal teams, the customers, and all the stakeholders involved. The customers should be notified that the team is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and assured of regular updates.

Automating communication and escalations is helpful as you can predefine the individuals who need to be communicated with, making the process more streamlined. Remember that timely and effective communication is the key to building relationships and fostering trust.

Provide support across multiple channels

The users 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 phone or desktop. It goes a long way in ensuring end-user satisfaction.

Review major incidents routinely

Organizations should have a specific process for handling major incidents, and that process should include collecting data that facilitates self-improvement and prevention of future similar incidents. These comprise emergencies that affect business operations and need immediate attention. Also, the major incidents should be reviewed frequently to identify new problems and workarounds.

Organizations need to leverage the incident management process as a feedback mechanism. Every incident presents an opportunity to learn and make positive changes in an iterative manner. Ultimately, the IT incident management process aims to address the pressing problems and be proactive in dealing with future incidents.

Incident management in ITIL

Incident management is a significant component of information technology 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.

The ITIL incident management policy provides guidelines regarding the incident management process and lists the procedures for managing and implementing the process. The contractors and support team members can benefit immensely from the management directive provided by ITIL.

Roles and functions in ITIL incident management

Successful ITIL incident management involves stakeholders’ roles, including the support teams. The incident manager is responsible for the implementation of the process and communication between different teams in the organization so that the incident is resolved in the timeframe mentioned in the service-level agreement.

Here are some of the roles and responsibilities involved in the incident management process:

Network operations center (NOC):

The NOC is the first point of contact for the users. The incident is handled by a person with sufficient business knowledge to log it, carry out the initial troubleshooting, and direct it to the next level.

The NOC is also responsible for monitoring the progress of the incident and escalating it to a higher level. Moreover, the team closes the incident once it is resolved and the report is generated.

BigPanda provides the necessary tools to the first responders to find solutions without escalations.

The technical team:

The technical team is the second level of support and is empowered with the right tools, techniques, and knowledge to resolve the incident as soon as possible. Also, they are responsible for conducting reviews after the incident and analyzing data and logs to develop strategies to prevent similar incidents.

BigPanda helps teams integrate alerts from multiple channels into a single view. Moreover, it provides business context and the probable root cause that allows the team to quickly respond to outages. It also employs AI/ML to correlate recent changes with suspicious incidents.

Hardware/software engineering team:

If the incident is caused by software or hardware failure, the technical team gets support from these teams to resolve the incidents. So, these teams comprise the third level of support in the incident management process.

Leveraging BigPanda for faster resolution

IT incident management is an essential service support component that guarantees customer satisfaction and builds loyalty. The faster an incident is resolved, the sooner the customer uses the services again.

So, incident management is one of an enterprise’s most important processes to get right. An effective incident management process improves the visibility and communication of incidents and ensures the implementation of standardized procedures for prompt and efficient response to an incident.

Incident management software that employs automation and data analytics capabilities is instrumental in providing an integrated approach to managing incidents. An incident intelligence and automation solution is a great way to minimize your organization’s costs and reduce downtime. It provides the required information regarding the incident, speeding up the decision-making process.

BigPanda’s Incident Intelligence and Automation platform, powered by AIOps, provides valuable support to enterprises in the three critical stages of the incident lifecycle: detection, triage, and investigation. It enables you to identify the incidents in real time, thus giving you the ability to mitigate a problem and prevent it from turning into an outage that affects the business adversely. It is context-rich, so incidents are triaged rapidly, enabling the team to take appropriate actions and improve the incident response time significantly. And it creates the latest topology models of your environment to understand the root cause of the problem and to eliminate future incidents.

Learn more about BigPanda’s Incident Intelligence and Automation, powered by AIOps.