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Classify, prioritize and automate incidents for faster resolution
Businesses aim for uninterrupted services to achieve higher efficiency and productivity. ITIL Incident Management is the first process to be adopted by most organizations for speedy service recovery. This belongs to the service operation of the ITIL service lifecycle. Incident Management acts as a single point of contact for end users to report any issues. An incident is defined as an interruption or disturbance to normal service. ITIL Incident Management performs fire-fighting most of the times to ensure the working state of service. This is one of the most significant ITIL processes to be implemented first in order to resolve users’ issues as fast as possible. Service desk implementation follows the Adopt and Adapt approach by adopting the best practices of ITIL Incident Management process and then adapting based on organizational needs. Successful Incident Management results in improved efficiency and higher productivity.
An IT Service Desk is the single point of contact between the IT team and end users. ITIL service operation covers Incident management techniques whose primary objective is to ensure seamless business operations with minimal or no interruption. Competent Incident management process reduces the communication gap that exists between end users and IT. ITIL Incident management process is a set of best practices for effective incident handling and resolution. Let us look at some of the basics of Incident management.
An Incident may be due to an asset that is not working properly. Therefore, Incident management and asset management are closely tied with each other to share information. Examples of Incident include WiFi issue, application error, email service issue, laptop crash, AD error, authentication issue.
Incident Management process comprises of a series of steps that are to be followed for an effective Incident Management process.
Investigation and Diagnosis
Incident resolution & closure
Incident logging is the first step in Incident management to report an identified incident. This is performed either by end users themselves using any ticket source or agents raise tickets on behalf of end users. The Incident form template is used to capture details about the issue. This speeds up the recovery process by automating based on values. Relevant channels are configured to let users raise a ticket. Common channels include email, self-service, mobile app.
Classification of incidents helps in proper categorization and assignment of tickets to the right agent. Category/sub-category fields are available in the Incident template to choose the associated Incident category. Configure incident form with the right set of fields and automate ticket classification, prioritization, and assignment to save time during the process. Correct classification of Incidents helps in better decision making.
Service Level Agreement (SLA) is dependent on ticket priority to define response and resolution rate. Priority decides the due by date before which the ticket has to be resolved. Therefore, it is essential to assign the right priority to the ticket. Priority matrix gathers impact and urgency from users and then decide the ticket priority. This addresses business critical issues on time. Hence, configure a realistic SLA definition to satisfy customer commitments.
Tier I team handles low priority incidents and complex incidents are handled by Tier II and Tier III teams. Tier I team does initial analysis and investigation. If the resolution is not found out, then it is escalated to Tier II and III teams for detailed investigation. The incident is associated with the relevant CI (Configuration Item) for faster diagnosis.
Incident resolution is crucial to meet the SLA and therefore timely resolution is important for agents to achieve good performance. Efficient communication about the resolution found out is equally important for users to get back to normalcy. Closure of tickets is handled by the system automatically or through the self-service portal.
Service Management methodologies such as DevOps, agile, lean have introduced newer ways of working for IT teams and the overarching goal is to collaborate effectively and promote teamwork over the silo.
Traditional three-tiered support model follows a hierarchy and the teams include front desk team ( Tier I), technical teams( Tier II) and application development team(Tier III). Tier-1 solves most of the tickets and they are mostly generalists whereas few tickets that require subject matter expertise are transferred to Tier-2 i.e. application management team. If it is still not resolved, then it is passed on to the development team for implementing new changes. This three-tier model is hierarchical and follows escalation procedure.
Swarming, on the other hand, focuses on effective collaboration among agents to resolve issues as quick as possible. This is based on knowledge sharing and its primary objective is to learn from others to arrive at a solution. There is no hierarchy followed here and it is a flat structure. Agents form a swarm to effectively collaborate and brainstorm. Swarming is helpful to handle unconventional tickets. Swarming is driven by organizational culture and it eliminates knowledge silos.
Full house participation
Brainstorm to find quick solutions
Provide multi-channel support to enhance user experience and ensure to educate users about the availability of these channels. Consumerization demands businesses to be available and accessible from anywhere.
Configure multiple channels to let end users raise tickets easily. For example email, chat, portal, enterprise social network like Yammer
Improve self-service adoption through personalization and customization. Make it easily accessible and educate users about the benefits of self-help and knowledge base
Mobile app is mostly used by millennials and therefore, make your service desk accessible via smartphones
Service desk users include agents and end users. It is vital to managing user details in order to bring more context to the ticket resolver
Automate user management by integrating with the company’s Active Directory or Identity Provider. This is a dynamic process which does not require manual work.
Classify users into respective groups within the service desk based on department.
Assign relevant scope and permissions to the agents to restrict ticket visibility
Proper classification helps in better troubleshooting and improving the resolution time. Prioritization ensures business critical issues are addressed first.
Configure Incident form template with right values so that users can choose the relevant issue category
Configure Service Level Agreement (SLA) to decide the response and resolution time. This is dependent on the priority of a ticket
Priority is based on two criteria i.e. impact and urgency which end users decide. Impact means the number of users affected in the system and urgency defines how soon the issue has to be resolved.
Incident Management involves a lot of routine tickets and activities such as categorization, prioritization, and assignment. Automation improves efficiency and productivity
Automate ticket assignment to the right agent based on ticket attributes
Configure automation workflows to send notifications to end users and agents. Communication is key to achieving SLA consistency
Escalations are sent through automated email reminders
Keep your users informed about the progress of the ticket. This develops trust between IT and end users.
Send notifications across various channels for ticket reply, status change and any other updates
Personalize email templates sent to end users to enhance user experience
Automate routine communicate activities to save time
Integrating Incident Management with other ITIL processes is helpful to share useful information and eliminate knowledge silos.
Associate the asset that is causing the incident or being impacted
Asset Management gives details about inter-relationships with other assets and impact
Search for relevant solution article within the knowledge repository. Do not reinvent the wheel for which solutions already exist
Leverage Gamification to create a good culture among service desk agents and motivate them to push harder.
Reward agents for higher performance such as faster resolution, CSAT survey ratings, SLA achievement. Showcase a leaderboard to create a healthy competition
Gamify based on different criteria that matters to your service desk
Motivate your agents constantly to innovate in IT
Problem is a series of incidents with an unknown root cause whereas incident is an unplanned interruption to the normal service. Incident Management is mostly reactive whereas Problem Management aims to be proactive to prevent major incidents. The primary objective of Incident Management is to restore services as fast as possible whereas Problem Management aims at finding a permanent solution. Problem Management starts when Incident management is unable to find out a solution. A problem record is created either from one or more repeating incidents or on its own. Problem Management performs Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to find out a permanent solution and maintains the Known Error Database (KEDB). Incident management shares crucial information such as incident details, user impacted, asset impacted, urgency, impact and criticality. Therefore, Incident Management acts as a prerequisite to Problem Management by sharing necessary information. Problem Management follows some of the proven techniques such as Ishikawa, 5 whys, brainstorming, Kepner Tregoe to find out the root cause.
Major Incident Management causes significant disruptions to the business and it has a huge impact on the working state of the business. A major incident is defined as the highest impact and highest urgency issue. Incident Manager takes care of the resources needed for incident resolution and Problem Manager finds out the underlying root cause of this major incident. Different SLA policy is set to handle major incidents. Proactive Problem Management identifies and prevents major incidents. Major Incident report is prepared to capture details about the major incident and users impacted.
Example - ERP application shutdown, Access control threat
An Incident manager devises and manages the Incident management process for the organization and adopts the best practices of ITIL within the process. Incident Manager is responsible for the following tasks:
Responsible for setting up an Incident Management process in line with business requirements
SLA consistency and process adherence
Manage Incident team of different Tiers
Reports on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and critical success factors (CSFs)
Point of contact for communication with other teams
Handles escalations and cross communication
Do not follow the process as per books - Accommodate ITIL Incident Management process according to your environment needs. Customise the process as required and review continuously
Do not set irrelevant KPI - Assess your system and set relevant KPIs. First Call Resolution (FCR) should not be measured as a metric as service quality is more important. Therefore, set up realistic metrics and measure them for constant improvement
Do not enforce tiered structure - Promote peer collaboration and knowledge sharing among agents. This improves resolution time and complex problems can be handled in a better way through peer learning
Do not ignore your end-user preference - Choose an appropriate service desk solution that can be customized according to end users’ preference. For example: Customize branding, channels, forms, and SLA. Align service desk solution to your user needs.
Do not forget gamification - Motivate your agents constantly to push harder and perform better. Gamify your service desk to improve morale and trust among agents
Incident manager owns the responsibility of defining the right KPIs. This ensures business alignment and KPI reports are reviewed with the management periodically. KPIs are related to Critical Success Factors (CSF) and CSFs, in turn, are related to primary objectives. Service desk solution helps you in assessing these KPIs with advanced analytics reports. These reports are automated and used to improve the existing process and business as a whole. Types of reports include ticket trends, agent performance, CSAT, SLA reports etc.
Typical Incident Management metrics include:
Service desk vendors provide a bunch of features relevant to Incident Management. However, the following list includes the minimum features required for Incident Management.
Incident management system delivers following business benefits
Maintenance of seamless service levels
Smooth business operations
Meeting requirements for IT service availability
Improved efficiency and productivity within IT team as well as the organization
Higher end-user satisfaction
Maintaining SLA consistency
Proactive identification and prevention of major incidents
Incident Management Best Practices
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