What is Incident Management?

An IT Service desk acts as a single point of contact between IT team and end users. Businesses adopt ITIL to improve service efficiency and productivity. ITIL service operation covers Incident management techniques whose primary objective is to ensure smooth business operations with minimal or no downtime.Competent Incident management process bridges the communication gap between end users and IT agents. ITIL Incident management process follows a set of best practices for effective incident handling and incident resolution. Let us look at some of the basics of Incident management.


What is an Incident?

An incident is an unexpected disruption to a service. It disturbs the normal operation thus affecting end user’s productivity. An Incident may be caused due to an asset that is not functioning properly or network failure. Examples of Incidents include printer issue, wifi connectivity issue, application lock issue, email service issue, laptop crash, AD authentication error, file sharing issue etc.

Incident vs service request

Service requests are ‘a formal request from a user for something to be provided – for example, a request for information or advice’. The main difference between Incident and service request is that often pre-approved standard changes are classified as service requests which end users request for. For example, UX designer requests for Adobe photoshop software and increase in RAM space. Having an intuitive service catalog to capture this request is recommended.

Incident vs problem

Problem is a series of incidents with an unknown root cause, whereas incident arises as soon as something breaks or stops working disrupting normal service. Incident handling is usually a reactive process whereas problem management is more proactive. Incident management system aims at restoring services quickly whereas problem management aims at finding a permanent fix.

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Incident Management Process Flow

Incident Logging

The first step in Incident management is to report the identified incident.This can be done by the end users themselves or agents can do it on their behalf. The IT team needs to capture complete information about the incident using a form template to speed up recovery process. They also need to set up relevant channels for end users to report an issue easily.

Incident Classification

Segment the incidents with appropriate category/sub-category in order to easily identify the right group and agent. Customize incident form with the right fields and set up automated rules for ticket classification, prioritization and assignment and save valuable time in the process. Correct classification of Incidents will help in generating reports faster.

Incident Prioritization

Assigning the right priority to ticket has a direct impact on deciding SLA policy and addressing business critical issues on time. Thus, set up a realistic SLA definition to meet customer commitments.

Investigation and Diagnosis

When an incident is raised, the IT team performs an initial analysis of the same and sends a resolution to the end user. In the event the resolution is not available immediately, they, escalate the incident to tier II & tier III teams for detailed investigation. Components required to identify, analyze, and contain an incident are reviewed. The incident is also associated with the relevant CI (Configuration Item) for faster diagnosis.

Incident Resolution and Closure

One of the primary goals of any IT team is to resolve any incident, coming their way, as soon as possible. Efficient communication about the resolution and closure of the resolved tickets is very important. The team can even automate the process of closing the resolved tickets or the user can do it themselves through the self-service portal.

Checklist for setting up Incident management process flow

  • Channels - Multi-channel support expands the scope of being available anytime and accessible from anywhere
  • User management - Automatically manage the agents and requesters' user profile information. This can be done manually as well through CSV bulk import, Active Directory integration, Third party identity provider integration. This provides better context to service desk agents while resolving incidents.
  • Form customization - Customize incident form template to capture the right information in order to improve First Call Resolution(FCR) and assign the ticket to right agent.
  • Auto-assignment - Automate ticket classification & assignment based on ticket properties using workflows. Enable round robin ticket assignment for workload distribution, if necessary. This boosts efficiency and eliminates redundant activities such as ticket assignment.
  • Realistic SLA definition - Create multiple SLA policies when more than one group is onboarded into service desk. Define escalation rules to address SLA violations so that agents working on the tickets get notified on/before time. Meeting SLA improves productivity and user satisfaction.
  • CMDB - Associate the right Configuration Item(CI) to the ticket, which is causing the incident or being impacted. This gives a better context during incident handling. Maintain asset relationships with one another so that diagnosis becomes easier. This helps in analysing the root cause and reducing MTTR.
  • Knowledge base - Integrate knowledge base within incident management to deflect frequently raised tickets. Add visual elements such as images, videos and categorise the articles under relevant folders to increase adoption of knowledge base.
  • Notifications - Personalize email templates for sending notifications by including dynamic placeholders and automate the process. Configure notifications through multiple channels such as email, mobile push alerts, SMS etc. to let users and agents stay informed.
  • CSAT survey - Configure a survey to assess customer satisfaction post resolution. This is an example of continual service improvement and incentivise high performing agents based on the results.
  • Closure - Set up an automation rule to automate ticket closure process or let end users close tickets themselves through the self-service portal.

Incident management best practices

Easy accessibility

Ensure that you promote your service desk heavily to end users and offer multiple channels such as email, web, mobile app to report an incident. Incident logging becomes more efficient with easily accessible multi-channel IT service desk.

Effective communication strategy

Communicate first response and resolution to end users by sending relevant email notifications. Follow an effective strategy to trigger alerts for ticket updates, replies and status updates.

Automate as much as possible

Identify tasks that can be automated in order to reduce manual work and improve efficiency. Automate email notifications so that agents and end users stay informed.

Motivate your agents

Set clear goals for your team and communicate KPIs that are aligned with business goals. Having said, agents’ morale play a huge role in providing quality service and improving end user satisfaction. Therefore, gamify your IT service desk by creating quests and arcade.

Incident manager roles & responsibilities

An Incident manager is someone who devises and manages the enterprise Incident management process for the organization and adopts the best practices of ITIL within the process. Incident manager is responsible for following tasks

  • Set up process in accordance with business requirements
  • Process adherence and meeting SLA
  • Manage Incident team of different levels (L1,L2, L3)
  • Generates periodical reports and maintains Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  • Act as an escalation point to resolve any major incident
  • Coordinate with other teams like Problem, change and configuration management.

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Benefits of Incident management

Incident management system delivers following business benefits

  • Smooth business operations
  • Improved productivity
  • Satisfied end users
  • Maintaining consistent service levels
  • Proactive identification and prevention of major incidents

5 DON’Ts of Incident Management

  • Do not follow process blindly - Assess the maturity & business vision. Customise the process; test and review continuously with end users.
  • Do not focus on FCR always - Metrics are important but resolving the issue permanently is more important than providing inaccurate first call resolution. Therefore, set up realistic metrics and measure them for constant improvement
  • Do not work in silo - Collaborate with peers and other teams such as problem, asset, change management for better context.
  • Do not choose an inappropriate service desk solution - Service desk solution that you implement should be customizable in terms of branding, configuring channels, forms and SLA. Align service desk solution to your business needs.
  • Do not get overwhelmed with numerous incidents - Sometimes, huge ticket volume demotivates agents. Gamify your service desk to improve morale and boost motivation among SD agents.

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