Thinking about IT Incident Management? You know how Incidents are handled has an enormous impact to customer satisfaction. This quick-start summary will tell you what you need to know to get started.

I’ve Fallen and I can’t get upBasic ITIL Incident Management

When things stop working, customers call Service Desk to get it fixed.

Incident Management is the process for handling these issues beginning-to-end.

This article will help you understand basic ITIL Incident Management so you can get started with it in your company.

A quick word about “Incident”

First, let’s define “incident”. An incident is an unplanned situation where an IT service is or will be interrupted or degraded in quality. Working definitions vary a bit, but that’s pretty much the heart of it.  Something was, or should be working, and it no longer is. (Or the performance is not up to expected standards.)

Incidents are things like:

  • Users not being able to log into mail
  • Application/server not responding
  • Most PC problems
  • Slow network performance

You get the idea.

What’s the goal?

The Prime Directive of Incident Management is to restore service as quickly as possible.

This is where Incident Management differs from issue resolution.

Traditional issue resolution has two goals:

  1. Identify and completely resolve underlying issues, and
  2. Rapid restoration of Service

Which are often at odds.

Incident Management has one primary goal:

  1. Rapid restoration of Service to minimize business impact

Incident Management is often confused with Root Cause Analysis (RCA). But  finding and resolving the underlying issue(s) can be time consuming. It’s not that it’s not important. Just that every minute counts when customers are down.

Again, the goal of Incident Management is rapid restoration of service. Get the service restored first, and then work on resolving the underlying issue.

Objection, Your Honor

But if we don’t find the real problem, aren’t we doing a bad job of troubleshooting?  If ITSM is suppose to be All About Value to The Business, wouldn’t our customers expect us to actually fix the problem?

Fair question.

A quick analogy. Firefighting.

Incident Management is like fire fighting when a building is burning. Firefighters know their job: Safely put out the fire as quickly as possible. Protect lives and property. ITIL Incident Management

Problem Management is like investigating the cause of a fire. (See What is Basic IT Problem Management) Fire Investigators come in after the fire’s out to identify the cause, in hopes of preventing future fires.

Firefighters have their focus. Fire Investigators have theirs.

How Does Incident Management Work?

Most Incidents are reported to the Service Desk (or Help Desk, “support”) by users.

Service Desk staff follow these basic steps as they work to quickly resolve the issue:

  1. Collect basic customer information (name, phone, location, etc)
  2. Log Incident (problem description, etc)
  3. Categorize (Server, network, application, PC, etc)
  4. Prioritize Incident (based on urgency and impact)
  5. Trouble shoot Issue – investigate, diagnose, resolve
  6. Escalate to other support staff if/as needed (network, developers, etc)
  7. Confirm resolution
  8. Complete tracking information with resolution information
  9. Close Incident

About Tools

You don’t need expensive tracking tools to do basic Incident Management. Much can be done with very basic tools, like spreadsheets, or SharePoint. There are also some very impressive smaller players in the ITSM tools space with powerful and cost effective solutions.

I prefer to start Incident Management with very basic tools. It encourages staff to be creative and helps focus on the goal.

Don’t be a Fool-With-A-Tool! (a person with fabulous tools, but not the faintest idea how to use them)

Work first on achieving the Incident Management goal. Get that going, and as you gain experience, then look for better tools.

When you’re ready, Ros Satar recently did a nice article on Assessment Criteria for Incident Management Tools.

Getting Started

Incident Management is often one of the first ITIL processes adopted because it has such an impact on IT customers. I’m a big fan of getting a basic process going first, and  then improving it in small steps over time. (See ITSM Rapid Process Implementation: CSI is a Verb!)

Don’t let lack of tools or funding keep you from getting started. Adopting Incident Management is a great way to improve customer satisfaction.

Be sure to check out The Real Value of IT Incident Management.

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