11/12/2023 |

Incident Management – Meaning, Objectives and Process

Effective incident management is a key prerequisite for smooth and secure company or organization operation. The following provides a detailed overview of the importance, objectives, roles and processes related to incident management.

What is incident management?

Incident management is a central component of IT service management (ITSM). It aims to quickly and effectively identify, document and resolve disruptions or interruptions to operations. 

The aim of this process is to minimize the negative impact of unexpected events on service operations and to restore normal functionality as quickly as possible. Incidents can include a wide range of faults, from technical problems to security-related incidents. They include anything that prevents or impairs normal operation.

Incident management is a structured approach that includes: 

  • a clear escalation structure, 
  • effective communication, 
  • defined ways to prioritize incidents and 
  • continuous improvement measures. 

By recognising incidents in real time, or at least at an early stage, and dealing with them swiftly, the incident management process ensures that the company can continue to operate, safeguard service quality and increase customer satisfaction.

Terms related to incident management

Incident Response 

Incident response is the way the company reacts to quickly recover from an incident. An incident response plan defines all necessary actions and responsibilities. Incident response management describes the operational area of incident management.

Security Incident Management

Security incident management specializes in rapid response to security-related incidents. These incidents usually have a high priority – there is a special duty of care to prevent damage to customers and the company itself. 

If a security-relevant incident is identified in incident management, security incident management is deployed. The security incident response team uses automated security processes and specialized incident response tools that enable a fast and structured response in order to eliminate security incidents as quickly as possible.

Difference between incident and problem

In IT service management, an incident refers to a short-term disruption or an unexpected event that disrupts a company’s normal operations and needs to be resolved quickly. An incident is an isolated stand-alone event.

A problem, on the other hand, is an underlying cause of a disruption that leads to recurring incidents. Problem management identifies and applies root cause analysis in order to implement long-term solutions and prevent recurring incidents. 

While incident management aims to quickly restore normal operations after an incident, problem management focuses on sustainable solutions to prevent recurring disruptions in the company. Both processes work together to ensure comprehensive service quality.

The importance in IT service management

IT incident management plays a central role in IT service management by identifying, documenting and rectifying unexpected disruptions to operations quickly and efficiently. 

The aim of the process is to minimize the impact of an incident on service operations, ensure smooth work and guarantee a high level of customer satisfaction. With structured incident management, IT teams are able to ensure a prompt and efficient response to trouble. This ensures compliance with the service levels defined in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). 

ITIL® Incident Management 

In the context of IT service management, incident management is often based on best practices as defined in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework. ITIL provides guidelines and recommendations for effective service processes, including incident management. By implementing ITIL principles, an IT organization can develop standardized and efficient approaches to incident management, resulting in improved service quality and smooth operations.

Objectives of incident management

Incident management in IT service management has several key objectives in order to ensure efficient and trouble-free operations.

Rapid identification and resolution of faults

By efficiently recording and quickly responding to an incident, it minimizes the disruption to operations and ensures rapid recovery.

Minimizing the impact on business operations

Clear classification and prioritization of incidents as well as targeted escalations ensure that critical business processes remain largely unaffected, despite disruptions.

Ensuring smooth service operations

Effective communication, transparent information for affected users and continuous improvement measures are designed to prevent future disruptions and continuously improve service quality.

The incident management process

The incident management process plays a decisive role in efficient incident management. The aim of the process is to resolve the incident as quickly as possible. 

Procedures, roles and responsible parties in the incident management process ensure that an incident is handled and documented in a structured manner. The process can be begun by users, customers or the provider by reporting an incident or fault. 

In IT service management, the incident management process is often provided by an ITSM tool alongside other service processes. The processes can then be customized to the needs of the company. They are generally automated as much as possible to speed up communication and resolution.


Incident Management Process

Important phases in the incident management process

Incident identification, recording and documentation

First, the incident is recorded and documented. The aim is to precisely record the incident and check whether it is a new or existing incident.

Incident categorization and prioritization

Then, incidents are investigated. They are categorized according to severity and the affected service or product. Incidents with a high degree of urgency are categorized as high priority incidents; incidents with a low priority are treated with correspondingly less urgency.

The major incident 

Major incidents have special significance in incident management. By definition, it is one that has a serious impact on business operations and can substantially jeopardize a company. A major incident must therefore be treated with the highest degree of urgency. 

A major incident response team is often defined for this purpose to ensure the fastest possible response. If in-depth and specialized knowledge is required, 3rd level support or a corresponding specialist department is immediately involved in the solution without going through the upstream support levels.

Incident resolution and closure

Once the incident has been successfully resolved, the post-mortem analysis and documentation of the solutions are carried out in order to prevent a recurrence of the incident or to be able to draw on the knowledge gained if it occurs again.

Provision of necessary information to all stakeholders

Once the incident has been identified, all affected stakeholders should be informed about possible impairments or security-relevant aspects. This enables them to adapt their actions according to the current circumstances.

Incident management reporting

Incident management reporting enables the documentation of all KPIs and thus forms the basis for the continuous improvement of service management, the associated processes and service levels.

Communication in incident management

Structured communication is an essential component of successful incident management.

Providing information to the various stakeholders at the right time as well as in the appropriate scope and level of detail leads to a faster resolution of the incident and thus a better service experience. In the case of major incidents, structured and efficient communication can even be a question of the company’s continued existence. 

Internal and external communication in the event of incidents

In incident management, a distinction is made between internal and external communication in the event of an incident:

  • Internal communication is necessary for resolving the incident and improving incident management. It is the communication between and amongst the teams that are working to resolve the situation.
  • External communication is responsible for informing customers and other stakeholders.

Visibility and transparency are important and confidence-building characteristics of incident management. In the event of an incident, communication about what’s happening should be carried out with the appropriate care. Customers and employees need the information to avoid misunderstandings or risks.

Use of an incident management system and incident tickets

With the use of incident management software, integrated ticket systems offer considerable advantages. Not only do they enable structured communication and revision security, but they can also define the processing status and automate various aspects of the workflow. Role and rights management allow responsibilities to be defined and data protection to be guaranteed. Sensitive information is protected and only passed on to authorized persons.

If a ticket system is used to process the incident, at minimum the priority, responsibilities, type of incident, and related communication streams are defined in the ticket. If the incident cannot be resolved, a problem ticket is opened, which in turn triggers the problem management process.

Information transparency for affected users

A transparent information flow is essential for the effective handling of incidents and the associated communication. Only those who have the necessary information available can react appropriately to an incident and contribute to its resolution. 

Transparent communication is also necessary for a trusting relationship between the service recipient/customer and the service provider. It helps to prevent damage that can be caused by inadequate information management, such as misunderstandings, mistakes made and more.

Roles in incident management

Since ITIL® 4, incident management in ITSM has been described as a practice that can be flexibly adapted to an organization and its needs. This means that, within an incident response team, a single team member can cover multiple roles. Additionally, not every role needs to be represented.

Service Desk

The service desk is responsible for communicating with the service recipients. In this case, it receives reports of incidents or faults and forwards them to the incident management team. If the service provider is aware of a fault, the service desk proactively informs the service recipient.

Incident Manager 

The incident manager is responsible for the process flow and documentation of the incident. They coordinate the implementation of the incident management process and are therefore also responsible for the process. If the incident cannot be resolved by 1st level support, they escalate the incident to the next service level and initiate all further measures.

In the event of a major incident, the incident manager has the task of involving all specialist departments and experts required to resolve the incident in the incident management process. It is their responsibility to ensure that major incidents are treated as business-critical problems with the highest priority.

1st Level Support

First level support (or Level 1 support) receives incidents either from the service desk or directly from end users. They register and document the incident. Then, they try to find a solution as quickly as possible to restore normal operation. If they are unable to do so, they forward the incident to Level 2 support.

2nd Level Support

Second level support (or Level 2 support) takes over fault reports from Level 1 support. It works together with developers and experts from other areas to resolve the incident as quickly as possible.

3rd Level Support

Third level support (or Level 2 support) is the final stage of incident escalation. External experts with in-depth knowledge of products or specific technical problems are often involved here.

Continuous improvement in incident management

In order to benefit from the experience of an incident, it is important to analyze the measures taken, the process flow and documentation pertaining to the incident. This is the only way to gain well-founded insights into service quality and make corresponding improvements.

Analyze incident data 

All incident data is analyzed and documented accordingly in order to be able to react more quickly and appropriately in the event of a recurrence. 

Employee training 

Ongoing employee training ensures that incidents are recognized reliably and dealt with effectively. The knowledge and experience gained from incident management should enable employees, and in particular the incident response team, to react more quickly.

Preventative measures 

The experience gained is incorporated into measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident or problems that have occurred in the incident management process in the future.

Find out how OTRS can improve your incident management processes. We offer customized solutions for ITSM and security incident management

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