What is incident management?

Incident management is a series of steps taken to identify, analyze, and resolve critical incidents, which could lead to issues in an organization if not restored.

Incident Management restores normal service operation while minimizing impact to business operations and maintaining quality.

An incident, by definition, is an occurrence that can disrupt or cause a loss of operations, services, or functions. Incident management describes the necessary actions taken by an organization to analyze, identify, and correct problems while taking actions that can prevent future incidents.

Incidents can disrupt operations, lead to temporary downtime, and contribute to the loss of data and productivity. It is increasingly crucial for organizations to take incident management practices seriously, as there are multiple benefits of it.

Some of these benefits include:

Better efficiency and productivity

There can be established practices and procedures that can help IT teams better respond to incidents and mitigate future incidents. Additionally, machine learning automatically assigns incidents to the right groups for faster resolution. Dedicated agent portals for issue resolution have access to all necessary information in one view, and can leverage AI to deliver recommended solutions immediately. A dedicated portal for Major Incident Management enables swift resolution by bringing together the right resolution teams and stakeholders to restore services.

Visibility and transparency

Employees can easily contact IT support to track and fix issues. They can connect with IT through web or mobile to have a better understanding of the status of their incidents from start to finish, and subsequent effects. A better consumer experience is delivered through intuitive omni-channel self-service and transparent, two-way communications.

Higher level of service quality

Agents have the ability to prioritize incidents based on established processes, which can also assist in the continuity of business processes, brought together to manage work and collaborate using a single planform for IT processes. Likewise, incident management makes it possible to restore services fast by bringing together the right agents to manage work and collaborate using a single platform for IT processes. IT can use advanced machine learning and data models to automatically categorize and assign incidents, learning from patterns in historical data.

More insight into service quality

Incidents can be logged away into incident management software, which provides insight into service time, severity of the incident, and whether or not there is a constant type of incident that can be mitigated. From here, the software can generate reports for visibility and analysis.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Incident management systems help build out processes that provide insight into SLA and whether or not they are being met.

Prevention of incidents

Once incidents are identified and mitigated, knowledge of those incidents and necessary responses can be applied to future incidents for faster resolution or all-around prevention. Increase incident deflection rate by reducing tickets and call volumes using self-service portals and ServiceNow chatbots—employees are able to find answers on their own before needing to log an incident, effectively preventing issues before they impact users with AIOps.

Improved mean time to resolution (MTTR)

The average amount of time to resolution decreases when there are documented processes and data from past incidents. Accelerate incident resolution with machine learning and contextual help to eliminate bottlenecks. AIOps integration reduces incidents and mean time to resolution (MTTR) to eliminate noise, prioritize, and remediate.

Reduction or elimination of downtime

Incidents cause downtime, which can slow or prevent businesses from executing operations and services. Well-documented incident management processes help in the reduction or total elimination of downtime that occurs as a result of an incident.

Improved customer and employee experience

Smooth operations within a company are reflected in a product or service. Customers will have a better experience if businesses do not experience downtime or a lapse in services due to an incident. Likewise, providing omnichannel options, where employees can submit incidents through self-service portals, chatbots, email, phone, or mobile, empowers them to easily contact support to track and fix issues with incident management.

Incident logging

An incident is identified and recorded in user reports and using solution analyses—once identified, the incident is logged and categorized. This is important for how future incidents can be handled and for prioritization of incidents.

Notification & escalation

The timing of this step may vary from incident to incident depending on the categorization of the incident. Smaller incidents may also be logged and acknowledged without triggering an official alert. Escalation occurs when an incident triggers an alert, and the proper procedures are performed by the individual who is assigned to manage the alert.

Graphic showing the different aspects of incident management.

Incident classification

Incidents need to be classified into the proper category and subcategory in order to be easily identified and addressed. Typically, classification happens automatically when the right fields are set up for classification, prioritization is assigned based on the classification, and reports are quickly generated.

Incident prioritization

The proper priority can have a direct impact on the SLA of an incident response, ensuring that business-critical issues are addressed on time and neither customers nor employees experience any lapse in service.

Investigation and diagnosis

The IT team performs an analysis and provides a solution to the employee once an incident is raised. If a resolution is not immediately available, the incident is escalated to the proper teams for further investigation and diagnosis of the incident.

Incident resolution and closure

An IT team is meant to resolve incidents using the proper prioritization methods as quickly as possible. Communication can help with the resolution and closure of tickets, with the possibility of automation to help resolving tickets. Once an incident is resolved, there is further logging and understanding of how to prevent the incident from occurring again or decrease the time to resolution.

Log everything

No matter the level of incident, the urgency, or the position of the caller, always log everything into a single tool with as much detail as possible. Keep track of all incidents, which speeds up time to response and resolution. There are also automated systems that can reconcile the logs.

Fill in everything

Be thorough in filling out everything to ensure that it is detail-oriented for any further investigation, information gathering, or reports that are generated.

Keep your categorizations clean

Avoid unnecessary categories and subcategories that can be sorted elsewhere or described in the fields. Also avoid using options like “other” as much as possible.

Keep an up-to-speed team

Standardize processes to ensure that each team member follows the same procedures and utilizes the right responses for each incident—this keeps quality consistent and uniform.

Log and use standard solutions

Solutions don’t always need to be new and innovative. If there are effective solutions that are existing, use them to keep procedures moving forward and standardized.

Support employees

There is a significant organizational benefit to properly and consistently training employees at all levels. It can be beneficial to train non-IT personnel how to respond to incidents at certain levels to help the IT staff respond to higher level incidents more quickly. Teams that are trained well are also more effective together and communicate better.

Set important alerts

One of the most important aspects of incident management is avoiding unnecessary overload. Carefully plan how events are categorized and what those categories mean in order to prevent incidents from being overlooked and response times from running too long.

A good starting point is defining service level indicators that are used to determine the hierarchy of prioritizations—for instance, prioritizing root cause analysis over surface-level symptoms.

Prepare your team for on-call

Teams need to communicate who is overseeing incidents and when. Create an on-call schedule to help teams ensure that a responder with the proper expertise is available in the event of an incident, then make any adjustments based on how overwhelmed individual employees are with different incidents.

Establishing communication guidelines

Create guidelines to establish effective communication—this is crucial to collaboration and team effectiveness. The guidelines should establish which channels staff should use, the content of those channels, and how communication is to be documented.

Improper guidelines can create unnecessary stress and tension during response periods when there is no standard for how employees are meant to interact and communicate. Well-documented communications help teams refer back to verify communication and pass on any necessary details without any loss of information.

Streamline change process

Establish levels or types of changes that individuals can make and from whom they need to get approval. Depending on the system and individual, they may need to seek approval or additional confirmation for changes. Ensure that the board who oversees changes is readily available so that change procedures are swift and effective.

Improve systems with lessons learned

Review incidents and evaluate the reason for the incident. Identify preventative measures that could have been taken for the incident and measures that need to be taken for future incidents. This also ensures that all documentation is completed, and that there is proper liability and compliance training if needed.

A problem is a series of incidents that do not have a known root cause. An incident is an event that causes something to stop functioning optimally. Problem Management makes it possible to identify the root cause of an issue that is affecting your services, and can help you prevent issues from happening in the first place, whereas incident management is a reactive approach to something short term that goes wrong—an incident allows systems to continue to run, but a managed incident may not necessarily solve a problem, which tends to be more long-term.

Incidents are a result of something not working or an issue that needs resolution, which triggers incident management processes. A request is more along the lines of something, such as a service, that is needed by the employee like access, items, equipment, etc.

  • Set up processes to meet business requirements
  • Adhere to processes and meet SLAs
  • Manage teams at different levels
  • Generate reports and maintain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Be a point of escalation when a major incident needs to be resolved
  • Coordinate with other teams

ServiceNow Incident Management can help keep employees productive and happy by ensuring easy-to-use contact support to track and fix issues. Users can connect to IT through a self-service portal, chatbot, email, phone, or mobile.

IT agents will be thrilled as well. Machine learning systems automatically assign incidents to the right resolution group for a faster and effective resolution. Dedicated agent portals for issue resolution have all necessary information in one view and they leverage AI to deliver recommended solutions immediately. There is also a dedicated portal for Major Incident Management that enables swift resolution by bringing together the right resolution teams and stakeholders to restore services. Mobile Agent gives IT agents a mobile interface to triage, address, and resolve incidents on the go.

Additionally, ServiceNow incident management offers 24-hour support, integrates seamlessly with AIOps, allows employees to use omni-channel notification to submit incidents, and gives service-desk personnel a clear view of incident resolution workflows via an incident response playbook. Visual task boards promote intuitive, effective collaboration, and the configuration management database (CMDB) creates a single system of record to help users better understand the impacts associated with individuals incidents, problems, and change requests.

And, with guided setup, deploying ServiceNow incident management is a fast and simple process.

Restore services faster

Enable agents to manage and collaborate work with a single IT process platform.

Boost employee productivity

Empower employees to do more, with omni-channel self-service and two-way communication.

Increase incident deflection

Provide self-service portals and intelligent chatbots, so that users have the resources to solve their own issues without having to get IT involved.

Ignite agent productivity

Incorporate machine learning to ensure that the right incidents are being assigned to the right groups, for faster, more complete resolution.

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