Incident Management: Definition, Processes, Steps & Best Practices

Updated on: 15 December 2023 | 10 min read
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Have you ever wondered what would happen if your organization faced a major crisis, such as a cyberattack, a natural disaster, or a pandemic? How would you respond? How would you communicate with your stakeholders? How would you minimize the impact and restore normal operations as soon as possible?

These are some of the questions that an incident management strategy can help you answer. In this blog post, we will delve into what is incident management, elements of an incident management plan and best practices you can employ to formulate your organization’s incident management strategy.

What is Incident Management?

Incident management is a critical component of maintaining seamless service operations. It involves a structured process for managing the lifecycle of all incidents to ensure minimal disruption and swift restoration of services. Unlike regular service operations that maintain the status quo, incidents are unexpected events that can significantly impact service continuity and customer satisfaction.

The role of incident management is pivotal for companies, as it directly influences their ability to deliver reliable services. Here’s why incident management is important:

  • Service Continuity: Incident management ensures that any interruption is dealt with promptly, reducing the time services are unavailable and maintaining business continuity.

  • Quick Resolution: A robust incident management plan facilitates a faster return to normal service.

  • Customer Trust: Efficiently managing incidents helps in preserving and enhancing customer trust by demonstrating a commitment to service reliability and responsiveness.

For product managers, understanding the distinction between incidents and regular operations is key to developing effective incident management processes. By leveraging tools like Creately, with features such as real-time collaboration and visual kanban project management, teams can visualize incident workflows and collaborate more effectively to resolve issues swiftly.

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Incident Mangement Steps

Incident Management vs. Problem Management

How does incident management differ from problem management? Incident management focuses solely on the immediate resolution of issues to restore normal service operations as quickly as possible. It’s about firefighting – tackling the symptoms of a problem to minimize impact on the business.

On the other hand, problem management digs deeper, seeking to identify and resolve the root causes of incidents. This process is more analytical and strategic, aiming to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place. While incident management is reactive, problem management is proactive, often involving a thorough investigation and long-term solutions.

Incident ManagementProblem Management
  • Quick fixes to restore service
    • Long-term health of services
    • Immediate resolution
      • Identifies underlying causes
      • Minimizes business impact
        • Prevents future incidents

        Both processes are essential, but they require different approaches and mindsets. Incident management ensures that service disruptions are dealt with swiftly, while problem management contributes to the overall stability and reliability of IT services. By integrating both into your strategy, you can ensure not only a quick response to incidents but also a robust system less prone to failures.

        Advantages of Implementing Incident Management Processes

        At the heart of a successful SaaS product lies a stellar customer experience, and effective incident management plays a pivotal role in ensuring just that. By swiftly addressing service disruptions, incident management not only restores normal operations but also conveys a message of reliability and responsiveness to customers. Here’s how incident management enhances customer experience:

        • Minimal Service Disruptions: When incidents are managed efficiently, customers experience minimal disruption to their service. This quick return to normalcy is crucial in maintaining trust and satisfaction.
        • Transparent Communication: Keeping customers informed during incidents fosters trust. Effective incident management includes clear communication channels that update customers on the status of their issues.
        • Continuous Improvement: Each incident provides valuable insights. By analyzing these incidents, companies can implement changes that prevent future occurrences, thus continuously improving the customer experience.

        Types of Incident Management

        Reactive Incident Management

        This is the most common type of incident management, where the IT team responds to incidents that are reported by users or detected by monitoring tools. The goal is to resolve the incident as fast as possible, following a standard procedure that includes logging, categorizing, prioritizing, assigning, escalating, resolving, and closing the incident.

        Proactive Incident Management

        This is a type of incident management that aims to prevent incidents from happening in the first place, or reduce their frequency and severity. The IT team analyzes the root causes of incidents, identifies trends and patterns, and implements preventive measures such as patches, upgrades, backups, or configuration changes. Proactive incident management also involves conducting regular audits, reviews, and tests to ensure the reliability and availability of the IT services.

        Major Incident Management

        This is a type of incident management that deals with incidents that have a high impact on the business and require urgent attention. Major incidents are usually complex and involve multiple teams and stakeholders. The goal is to restore normal service as soon as possible, while minimizing the damage and communicating effectively with all parties involved. Major incident management requires a dedicated team, a clear escalation path, and a predefined process that includes declaring, mobilizing, coordinating, resolving, and reviewing the major incident.

        Continuous Improvement Incident Management

        This is a type of incident management that focuses on improving the quality and efficiency of the incident management process itself. The IT team collects feedback from users and stakeholders, measures the performance and effectiveness of the process, and identifies areas for improvement. Continuous improvement incident management also involves implementing best practices, standards, and tools to support the process, as well as training and educating the IT staff on how to handle incidents better.

        Elements of an Incident Management Plan

        Now that you have an understanding of what an incident management plan is and why it is important, let’s dive right into formulating one for your organization. A good incident management plan should contain the following elements.

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        1. Risk Assessment

        The first step in developing an incident management plan is to identify potential threats and scarcities to an organization. You can use a risk probability and impact matrix for this purpose. Conduct a brainstorming session with your team members and other key stakeholders to identify and list all potential risks that could affect the organization. Some potential risks may include cybersecurity attacks, public relations oversights, workplace conflicts and even external situations such as natural disasters and economic crises.

        As part of the risk assessment process, you may also carry out a business impact analysis (BIA) which will outline the potential disruptions a business might due to the identified risks. When conducting the BIA, determine how a threat will impact the following aspects of your business.

        • Customer experience
        • Business reputation
        • Loss of income
        • Cost increments
        • Legal implications

        Creately allows you to:

        • Create a workspace to formulate the incident management plan and conduct the threat assessment and business impact analysis using a risk probability and impact matrix (or any other relevant method).
        • Conduct a brainstorming session with remote team members, complemented with real time collaboration and synchronous editing.

        2. Determine the Actions

        Once the risks and their impact are identified, you can now formulate an activation protocol to determine the course of action to be followed in the event of a crisis. The actions in the plan may vary depending on the type of risk. For instance, if it is a public relations blunder, then the communications team may need to act promptly to issue statements to the media to rectify the situation and keep the customer support team informed to answer any questions that customers may have.

        Creately allows you to:

        • Map processes and create standard operating procedures with readymade customizable templates such as flowcharts and process maps.
        • Drag and drop any information into the workspace such as links, documents, images, and import data in Excel, Sheets and CSV formats to ensure that all information relating to the action plan is unified under a single workspace.

        3. Assign Roles and Responsibilities

        Once the action plan is laid out, you can select a team of first responders and assign them responsibilities according to each part of the plan. You can use a roles and responsibilities matrix (RACI) for this purpose. An RACI matrix is a simple framework that lists all stakeholders on a project and denotes their level of involvement in each task, using the letters R, A, C and I. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed.

        Creately allows you to:

        • Get a head start on the assignment of responsibilities with readymade and customizable RACI matrix templates.
        • Assign roles and responsibilities through Kanban boards and track tasks.

        4. Have a Clear Cut Communication Strategy

        Having a clear cut crisis communication strategy is key in minimizing the impact of a negative incident. The more relevant internal and external stakeholders are provided factual information about the disaster, the less doubts and uncertainties there will be among them. This goes a long way in restoring the trust your organization has fostered with its stakeholders.

        Your communication strategy should include information such as who will be responsible to deliver information to the public and who will be in charge of managing the feedback. Also include contact details of all channels through which the related information will be communicated to the public.

        Creately allows you to:

        • Use the shape data panel to add detailed contact information.

        5. Review and Update the Plan As Needed

        Now that you have identified the actions and persons responsible for carrying out those, spend time to review the plan and make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks. Once you have prepared the incident management plan, share it with your team, management or any other stakeholders to ensure that all relevant information is included in the plan.

        Creately allows you to:

        • Share your entire or part of the workspace with employees and the management through a multitude of access levels such as editor, reviewer etc and share permissions.
        • Add comment threads and @mention comments to workspaces to give and receive real time feedback.
        • Edit workspaces synchronously while working with remote teams.
        • Export your workspace in JPEG, PNG, PDF and SVG formats to be embedded in presentations, reports, other sites or intranets.

        Best Practices for Managing Incidents

        When it comes to incident management, continuous improvement is not just a best practice; it’s a necessity for teams aiming to stay ahead of incidents management challenges. Here are key strategies to promote an environment of ongoing enhancement:

        • Regular Review Sessions: Post-incident reviews are crucial. They provide insights into what worked, what didn’t, and how processes can be refined.
        • Feedback Loops: Encourage open communication channels for team members to share their experiences and suggestions for improvement.
        • Training and Development: Invest in regular training sessions to keep the team updated on the latest incident management protocols and technologies.
        • Metrics and KPIs: Establish clear metrics to measure the effectiveness of your incident management plan and make data-driven decisions.

        Conclusion

        An incident management plan is not a luxury but a necessity for any organization that wants to survive and thrive in today’s uncertain and volatile world. By having an effective incident management plan in place, you can prepare your organization for any crisis, respond quickly and efficiently, minimize the damage, recover faster, and improve continuously.

        By integrating these strategies with the features of a tool like Creately, teams can visualize their incident management processes on an infinite canvas, ensuring that every aspect is mapped out. Real-time collaboration further enhances the team’s ability to adapt and evolve their approach, while the visual kanban project management feature keeps progress transparent and actionable. Embracing continuous improvement with the right tools and mindset leads to a resilient and responsive incidents management system.

        Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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        Author

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        Hansani Bandara Content Specialist

        Hansani has a background in journalism and marketing communications. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

        View all posts by Hansani Bandara →