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Incident Management: Best Practices for ITSM Pros

“My laptop is acting up.” “The printer isn’t responding.” “I can’t connect to the internet.” These types of issues are at the heart of what every IT technician handles day in and day out, also known as incident management. Employees rely on this technology to do their jobs, so when there’s an issue that affects their ability to use this technology, it’s on IT to address these issues quickly and effectively. Since the bulk of what IT support handles on a daily basis are these types of common, recurring incidents, imagine how much more productive both IT and employees could be with a robust incident management solution in place. From automatically routing tickets to the appropriate team to preventing tickets from ever hitting the queue by enabling self-service, this valuable ITIL practice can help service technicians focus their time and energy on actually resolving issues and get employees back to being productive more quickly.

Incidents vs. Service Requests

Incident management is defined as “the practice of minimizing the negative impact of incidents by restoring normal service operation as quickly as possible.” Tickets for incidents are usually submitted when something is broken or isn’t working properly. These tickets differ from service requests, which are pre-approved services offered through a service catalog, such as employee onboarding and offboarding processes. Service requests follow a consistent workflow each time. They’re built out ahead of time, and tasks and approvals are assigned to the appropriate team members. Incidents, however, can vary from issue to issue, sometimes resolved with a single click or sometimes needing to escalate up the line. Differentiating between incidents and service requests can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to prioritizing, delegating, and reporting.

Logging an Incident

There’s no one way to report an incident. Employees can email, pick up the phone, walk over to their favorite IT tech, and more. But the most effective method is to use the service portal, which offers a number of benefits to technicians and employees alike. From self-service solutions powered by AI  that can guide the employee to resolve the issue themselves to immediate access via live chat, the service portal gives employees quick access to support resources. If it can’t be resolved via self-service or requires more detail than chat can accommodate, employees can submit tickets directly through the portal. One of the key benefits of submitting tickets through the portal is the power of the data it can capture to drive automations and workflows on the back end. An incident management system can categorize, route, and assign tickets based on the data provided, helping to speed up the resolution process (initial diagnosis, escalation, investigation, resolution and recovery, and closure). Faster resolutions are a win-win for both the technician and the employee. The categorization feature also helps to determine the priority level of the incident and who will take care of it. For example, the cybersecurity team will most likely handle a malware attack, and the applications team helps an employee regain access to a software application if they’re locked out. A modern service desk also gives IT pros the capability to relate configuration items (CIs), problems, and changes to existing incidents. If employees are repeatedly submitting the same types of tickets, it could be indicative of a bigger problem and require service technicians to dive deeper to find the root cause of the issue. Successful categorization also drives service desk automation over time. The more incident tickets submitted, the more a smart service desk can recognize common issues and promote self-service or one-click resolutions through knowledge articles.

Reporting Results With Incident Management

Because the bulk of IT support’s time is spent managing incidents, it’s crucial for teams to be able to measure how effectively those incidents are being handled. Reporting plays a key role in providing teams and IT leaders with the insights needed to measure efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and even determine if certain trends may be indicative of a problem or warrant a change. There are many incident management metrics teams can track, but some of the more helpful service desk reports include:
  • Open/Close Trends: What type of work is taking the longest to resolve? Where are teams spending the majority of their day?
  • Incident Heat Map: What are the peak times of day IT pros have the most ticket volumes?
  • Incident Trend Reporting: What resources need to be aligned to upgrade hardware or software applications?
  • CSAT Volume Breakdown: How’s the overall performance of the service desk? Are employees satisfied with the service they received?
Keep in mind the ITIL guiding principle Focus on Value when reporting. Don’t just report for the sake of reporting. Having access to data is helpful, but is it the right data for your organization’s needs?

Experience the Benefits of Incident Management

Think about how many internal support tickets your service desk receives on an average day and the amount of time IT pros spend resolving them. With a well-defined incident management process and a robust service portal in place, IT teams are better equipped to support the growing technology needs of employees and the organization as a whole. In addition to reducing ticket volumes through self-service, the benefits of effective incident management can include:
  • Better consistency in service levels
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • Increased value of IT service management
Incidents are inevitable, but building a strong incident management practice into your organization can make for a smoother resolution process and quicker resolution times in the future.
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Tim Lawes
Tim Lawes serves as Manager of Solutions Engineering, ITSM at SolarWinds. ITIL 4 certified, he brings 10+ years of training and consulting experience in the…
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