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How to Get Started with ITIL Incident Management

Six steps are all you need to get Incident Management under control, writes ITSMWatch columnist Hank Marquis of Global Knowledge.
Jul 9, 2010

Hank Marquis

ITIL spends lots of time on the things you could do but little time on the basics required to get started. This leads to lots of questions about where to start, understanding how much you are already doing, and even when to stop and move on to the next process or activity.

ITIL v3 defines an Incident as an unplanned interruption to service, or a reduction in the quality of a service. Incident Management (IM) is the term used to describe the process responsible for managing incidents. The main goal of IM is to restore service to users as quickly as possible. When you handle a call or email from a customer or user experiencing something wrong with a service you provide, you are "doing" IM. ITIL explains the reasons for Incident Management and how to setup an Incident Management process.

There are many aspects to carrying out IM (explained in detail within ITIL), however, there are just six things you need to do. If you do these six things consistently then there is a very good chance you are "doing" IM well enough to achieve the benefits the ITIL describes:

1. Create and maintain a database for all IM records. Make sure every Incident (each and every call, email, fax or drop-by) gets recorded into a database -- and that means capturing important information about the Incident, as well. Be sure to capture information about the Incident (work done, resolution, note, etc.)

2. Create a knowledge base by capturing and providing access to other records, data and information as well -- as much information as required to perform the IM function. ITIL calls this a configuration management database (CMDB) and/or a configuration management system (CMS).

3. Make sure you have (and enforce) written procedures for recording, prioritizing, classifying, escalating and reviewing Incidents.

4. Put in place procedures to manage the impact (effect of an Incident) on customer business based on how defined service levels will be affected.

5. Create a "major incident" model -- a set of rules that clearly describe a very bad incident. Major incidents affect important services and/or numerous customers and users. In either case, a major incident requires immediate escalation, notification of customers and IT management and other special handling. Basically the concept is that this incident type needs a full organizational response as soon as possible.

6. Keep the reporter of the incident (that is, whomever contacted you about the service issue) informed about the status of the incident as your team works it. You might also have to keep the customer (users work for customers) informed, as well. Be sure to know in advance whom to keep updated, how often to update them. You may also need to advise them if it appears that you wont be able to get service back into agreed parameters within agreed time frames too.

According to the International Standard for Information Technology -- Service Management (ISO/IEC 20000-1 or ISO20K for short) if you are not doing even one of the above items, you can improve your service quality by focusing on doing it. If you are already doing these things consistently, then you might not need to spend more time in this area -- focus on another ITIL area instead, perhaps Problem Management or Change Management.

These six items might take you months to implement and tune -- but the results will be tremendous improvement. Use these six steps to guide your ITIL implementation, and use the guidance in ITIL if you have questions about how to do these steps.

Do note that there is no need to use ITIL for these activities! In fact, you can "grow your own" solution or use any of the other IT service management frameworks out there since ITIL isn’t the only service management practice available. Of course, ITIL is the de facto standard world wide and is arguable the most mature collection of guidance for enterprise IT organizations.

When you have mastered these six steps you may or may not be "done". These steps are the minimum number of activities you should have and do well to deliver the benefits described in ITIL.

Hank Marquis is practice leader for Business Service Management at Global Knowledge. You can reach Hank at hank.marquis@globalknowledge.com.

Global Knowledge, ITIL, ITSM, Marquis, incident management

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