Business continuity has become a key priority for most management teams and their IT associates. Every single minute lost in downtime can result in potentially bloated overheads and reduced revenues. That said and done, no matter how well-engineered the network is, there will be some issues and problems in its due course of operations.

ITIL broadly defines an incident as an unplanned incident that interrupts a service or has the potential to interrupt service if not addressed immediately. With a structured ITIL Incident Management approach, enterprises can ensure minimum or next-to-zero business impact, even for unforeseen incidents.

Defining the First Response to Incident Detection

As soon as an incident is detected, the IT Team’s primary goal is to retain the network efficacy to its normal performance levels, adhering to the SLAs in place. The IT Team must also record all the incidents that are not resolved immediately. If an issue of similar nature is recurring, it should be tagged as a problem with a due plan of fixing the systemic errors resulting in the problem’s emergence.

For more extensive enterprise networks, the IT Teams may get overwhelmed by the number and extent of incidents occurring at the same point in time. Hence, to minimize potential damage, each incident should be ranked in terms of its urgency, significance, and impact on the critical processes. Incidents that are ranked highly on all three parameters should be immediately addressed.

The Most Important Component in Incident Management – Service Desk

There is a multitude of functions involved in the incident management cycle. The most critical one is the Service Desk. Without a Service Desk between the users and the IT Team, the latter would be cornered to take up each issue as it is registered. With this unstructured practice, the IT Team may misallocate resources to marginal issues and miss the more impactful ones.

The Service Desk can act as the interface with the users for collecting responses on the issues. It can then aggregate the necessary data and prioritize & delegate the resolution process to the IT Team. This way, the process becomes more streamlined, effective, and efficient.

ITIL Incident Management

Incident management plays a vital role in an organization’s day-to-day processes to encourage efficient workflow and deliver the best results for providers and customers. To ensure your IT support team is competent, implement a structured process flow from reporting the incident to resolving it.

The main process steps involved in incident management:

Incident vs. Request Filtering: Each user-request is carefully examined by the Service Desk and tagged as an Incident or a Request. Both Incident and Requests should have specific resolution plans, with a greater impetus put on Incidents.

Ticket Engineering: Once the request has been filtered as an issue, the Service Desk should log a ticket in the enterprise system with vital information such as User Profile Information, Incident Description & Supporting Data.

Categorization and Prioritization: Assigned Incident Category and Priority should also clearly reflect in the same incident ticket. Creating a rule-based system for categorization can expedite the entire resolution process. Once an incident has been categorized, the IT Team responsible for the resolution should have a readily-available workflow for that particular category of incidents. This way, the Service Desk can efficiently track, model, and assist each incident’s resolution.

As soon as the incident has been categorized accurately, prioritizing it would become more manageable. The Service Desk can now determine the issue’s direct impact on users and critical business processes. All issues with more significant impact and pressing urgency should be higher on the issue resolution team’s priority list.

Closing Process: User-feedback should be the primary source of closing the incident resolution cycle. The user-feedback can be used as the data to determine whether the issue resolution process was effective or not. This can also be the primary source of filtering problems as the recurring set of incidents.

Taking a Structured Approach to the Incident Management Process

The Incident Management Process, often referred to as the Incident Management Lifecycle, is a standard set of instructions to enhance the collaboration between IT Teams for impactful service-delivery. It is applicable across industries and scales of incidents.

Defining the Roles in the Incident Management Process

These are the foundational roles in the Incident Management Process:

  1. Primary Technical Support: This team, also termed as the Level 1 Staff, comprises human capital assigned for first-response to incident reports. They are often members of the Service Desk responsible for capturing and categorizing incidents as logged by the users. Post this, they work in line with a pre-defined set of instructions to restore services. If they cannot resolve the issue quickly, it gets escalated to a Secondary or Level 2 Support team. The primary team might be the first point of contact for incidents, but they do not manage the entire team working on the incident.
  2. Incident Manager or Owner: The Incident Manager takes ownership of the entire process – from issue detection to reporting to resolution. As the issue gets escalated between Level 1 and 2 support team, the Incident Manager takes the responsibility of allocating the incremental resources along with putting together a task-force or a Major Incident Team for working on identified significant incidents.
  3. IT Operators: This is the team of individuals who act as buffers in the incident resolution process, ensuring scheduled maintenance of servers, taking up timely data-backups, and monitoring schedule-adherence for critical tasks. They are also leveraged as additional person-power for a significant incident if and when necessary.
  4. Major Incident Team: The team is called in only when the issue has escalated to a severity that will impact the entire enterprise or significant business processes. A dynamic team is put together in line with the urgency, demanded expertise, and scale of the issue.

The Scope and Process of Incident Management

To work on the further incident resolution processes, it is crucial to define the scope of incidents. Any instance that leads to interrupted services can be termed as an incident. This may include more systemic & severe failures or otherwise unexpected challenges like power failures, program bugs, or hardware damages. Defining the scope of incidents ensures efficient resource allocation as each small interruption should not be identified as an incident.

A well-defined scope of incidents leads to the outline of ITIL Incident Management:

  • Problem Detection: The user-request are recorded along with their characteristics and necessary data.
  • Classification: Based on the available data, the Service Desk adds a category tag to the incident-ticket.
  • Causal Investigation: As the incident is recorded, the IT Team investigates the potential causes and collects related data for further resolution.
  • Launching a Line of Communication for Further References: Data from the earlier step is used to resolve the incident. Once the incident has been resolved, the solution is recorded for future references.
  • System Restore and Closing Process: As the incident is effectively closed with a resolution in place, the system is brought to its normal performance levels.
  • Preventive Measures Based on the Line of Communication: Once the incident is closed and the system has been restored, the line of communication is regularly referred alongside the system’s tracking to ensure the same issue is not recurring.
  • Resolution Framework Structuring & Evaluation: As the Line of Communication directs the checks & balances necessary for resolving identical incidents, a framework around it is created to expedite such incidents. This framework is frequently evaluated to ensure seamless system restoration, with next-to-zero downtime or critical business process disruption.

Why is ITIL Incident Management Necessary?

ITIL Incident Management focuses on efficient system restoration with preventive measures taken for stopping recurring issues. It ensures minimal or no damage to the business’ operations and helps in maintaining business process continuity, in line with the performance levels defined in the SLA. The goal is to immediately restore the system to a pre-defined Normal Service Operation, benchmarked with mutual agreements.

Incident Management: Quick Case Studies

The most commonly observed incidents often tend to fall under the following categories:

  1. Application Failure
    1. All undefined errors are identified as application errors and assigned to a pre-defined response team.
    2. Data corruptions are often the starting-point of systemic failures and disrupted business operations. Special measures are taken to ensure its integrity.
    3. Even the smallest of bugs in a software package or an online platform can drive the users away. Hence, the incidents are not identified based on their scale and their collective impact on users’ business operations and extent.
  1. Hardware Failures
    1. Servers are the central systems for hosting and making digital assets accessible to both the enterprise’s internal and external customers. If server-based incidents are not immediately addressed, they can potentially impact all the enterprise processes.
    2. Network Connectivity incidents often disrupt communication across email and video chats that can directly impact critical business processes and everyday operations.
    3. Enterprise system downtimes have a direct impact on human capital performance. With adequate system backups, the firm can continue with everyday operations even as incident resolution processes are launched.

In Conclusion

Incident Management is highly dependent on the Service Desk. It analyses the registering of incidents across categories along with resolution timelines. Once the incident is processed and closed, the firm can focus on aggregating data to augment the service-quality and take preventive measures to eliminate the arising of incidents in the first place.

While keeping the user at the center of the resolution process, Incident Management ensures that each incident is efficiently resolved, followed by an in-depth analysis and documentation of each incident. Such rigorous processes ensure that each incident adds to the firm’s knowledge about the loopholes in its systems and creates value by proactively resolving them.

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