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Automate incident response and resolution


  • For effective incident management automation, get clarity on how the organization defines services, on business rules for how service incidents are prioritized, categorized, and assigned, and on processes for escalation, notification, and knowledge management.

Effective incident management automation requires three things:

  • Consolidated real‑time information about services and their event status
  • Clear prioritization rules based on business impact
  • Clear triggers for notifying and escalating incidents to support teams and fast access to the “right knowledge” for support teams and service customers

Consolidated real‑time information about services and their event status

At a minimum, you need an organizational framework for business services, whether these services are discovered through Service Mapping or defined manually from the top down. If you still need some help in this area, go back to Stage 2.

The services reflected in the Event Management console shown in Figure 3 need to reflect services as the organization understands them—such that when the service desk receives an incident notification, it doesn’t require significant “translation” to understand where the incident might match to event and alert data. 

One possible test is to look at historical data for service outages and determine whether the service, as your support teams define and understand it, clearly matches to the service defined in the Event Management console.

Clear prioritization rules based on business impact

Support teams can create rules to autogenerate high‑priority incidents for alerts based on severity, as well as trigger service desk workflows and automated remediation. To do this, you must have clear, well‑defined service level agreements (SLAs) that guide service outage prioritization based on their business impact. 

As mentioned in Stage 1, your organization must identify the relative criticality of its services, based on the degree that they’re essential to business operations. 

Clear triggers for notification and escalation among support teams and fast access to “right knowledge” for support teams and service customers

Automating incident management isn’t effective if it stops at detection and correlation. To improve MTTR, you need to automate your support and remediation activities. Following this checklist will get you there:

  • Be clear about how you should assign different incident categories and types – To automate your support team activities, begin with routing incidents to the appropriate resolution group. Use historical incident data, along with simple tabletop exercises, to help you define the routing rules you can automate with ServiceNow.
  • Create clear rules to govern escalation and notification – Support your routing with clear, consistent guidelines for incident escalation—escalations based on business impact, the affected CI(s), or other criteria—and bidirectional notification so escalations can be acknowledged. Again, use historical data related to incidents and service outages, along with simple tabletop exercises, to sharpen the escalation criteria you can automate using ServiceNow On‑Call Scheduling. 
  • Create a process to maintain your knowledge base – Ideally, the rules applied to alerts should associate incidents with the appropriate knowledge base article to give support staff guidance on issue resolution. But the effectiveness of these rules depends on how successful your knowledge base maintenance process is. At a minimum, your support teams should follow a process to use your knowledge base to document known errors and fixes. More proactive organizations provide incentives for support teams to rate knowledge base articles, provide feedback, and update and/or contribute articles as part of their daily work.
  • Create channels for effective team collaboration – Getting access to the “right knowledge” is as much as matter of providing support team collaboration channels as it is of having a populated knowledge base. To maintain the integrity of the incident management process, make sure collaboration takes place in the same system of record as the incident management workflow. To do this, launch chat rooms using On‑Call Scheduling, which can log support team conversations, and then channel your collaborations to the chat rooms.

For service customers, effective automation requires three things: 

  • An omnichannel ability to log incidents—like self‑service, chat, email, phone, etc.—both from a desktop and mobile environment
  • Access to knowledge base articles that can support self‑service resolution (For more on this, see our best practice success guide on how to improve self‑service.)
  • For business managers, access to real‑time reporting on the status of business‑impacting service outages

Ensure that service customers are notified of the actions you’ve taken and the progress you’ve made toward resolving the incident. Make sure your service desk has clear business rules and standard communication guidance on notification. 

Expert Tip


Use tabletop exercises with service desk staff to identify gaps in business rules governing incident management workflow, or identify opportunities for improved collaboration and knowledge sharing.

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