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Mastering Major Incident Management

In a world run by information technology, incidents can strike unexpectedly. Sometimes, these are minor such as forgetting email passwords, and other times, they are major such as the company’s servers being down. While the former only affects one person or team, the latter can disrupt business operations and cause chaos if not managed swiftly and effectively. This is where major incident management steps in—a process aimed at minimizing the impact of major incidents on an organization's day-to-day operations.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about major incident management, including its definition, examples, process, best practices, and the benefits of using major incident management software.

What is major incident management?

Major incident management is the process of coordinating and resolving significant disruptions to IT services that have a substantial impact on business operations, revenue, or customer experience.

Typically, these incidents demand urgent attention and impact a large number of users or services. The primary goal of major incident management is to restore normal service operations as quickly as possible, minimizing their impact on day-to-day operations.

In other words, there are two key aspects of major incident management:

- High Impact: These incidents cause widespread disruption to critical IT services, affecting a large number of users or significantly impacting business operations.

- Urgency: Major incidents demand immediate attention and resolution as they can have severe consequences.

Although these two aspects are mostly present in major incidents, the specific definition of what constitutes a major incident may vary depending on the organization's size, industry, and risk tolerance.

Examples of major incidents

Incidents occur in various forms across different organizations, including:

  1. Network Outages: Complete or partial loss of network connectivity like the internet in one or more offices. This can affect a large number of employees, services, and departments.
  2. Server Failures: Critical server failures leading to service disruptions or data loss. These issues can occur due to multiple reasons such as power outages, viruses, or hardware failures.
  3. Cybersecurity Breaches: Security incidents such as data breaches, malware infections, or ransomware attacks. For instance, a set of employees receiving phishing emails. This not only disrupts normal operations, but can also lead to financial losses.  
  4. Software/Application Failures: Lag or downtime in applications such as Amazon Web Services, G-Suite, marketing platforms, and payment gateways. These are crucial to day-to-day functioning and can cause a significant service interruption.

Importance of major incident management

Despite having robust incident ticketing , why do companies need a separate major incident management process? Let's look at the benefits of having a distinct process to understand further.

Minimized business disruption

  • A structured process ensures swift response and resolution of major incidents. This, in turn, minimizes downtime and associated business losses.
  • Clear procedures and assigned roles streamline recovery efforts, leading to faster restoration of critical services.
  • Proactive measures and recovery plans help safeguard data and minimize potential data loss during major incidents.

Improved IT resilience

  • Post-incident reviews provide valuable insights into the root cause of the incident. Oftentimes, these reviews also identify potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities that exist in the IT system. This helps the IT team in taking proactive measures to prevent such incidents in the future.  
  • Organizations document and incorporate lessons learned into the major incident management process, leading to continuous improvement.
  • Enhanced preparedness for future incidents strengthens the overall IT infrastructure's resilience.

Enhanced efficiency and collaboration

  • Clear communication channels and protocols keep all stakeholders informed. All concerned members have status updates throughout and after the incident. This fosters collaboration and coordinated action.  
  • Assigned roles and responsibilities eliminate confusion and ensure everyone involved knows their part in the response effort.
  • Post-incident reviews and documentation promote knowledge sharing and continuous improvement of incident handling procedures.

Additionaly, organizations can reduce costs and identify ways to adhere to industry regulations and data security standards.

Key steps in a major incident management process

The major incident management process typically involves the following key steps:

  1. Detection: Identifying the incident through user reports, system alerts, or monitoring tools.
  2. Assessment: Evaluating the incident's severity, scope, and potential impact on business operations.
  3. Communication: Promptly notifying key stakeholders, including senior management, affected users, and relevant IT teams.
  4. Escalation: Activating the major incident response team and assigning roles and responsibilities.
  5. Resolution: Implementing the necessary actions to isolate the problem, restore service, and minimize downtime.
  6. Recovery: Restoring full functionality and ensuring data integrity.
  7. Postmortem: Conducting a thorough analysis of the incident to identify root causes, prevent future occurrences, and improve response strategies.

9 best practices for major incident management

Here are some of the best practices to enhance the effectiveness of major incident management:

1. Multi-channel communication: Set processes so that employees can report incidents through appropriate channels. These channels can be calls, emails, or chatbot messages depending upon the incident’s severity and organizational policies.    

2. Establish clear roles and responsibilities: Define roles and responsibilities for incident management teams, such as:

  • Incident commander: Overall leadership and coordination of the incident response effort.
  • Technical experts: Individuals with expertise in the affected systems and technologies.
  • Communication specialists: Responsible for keeping stakeholders informed about the incident status and resolution progress.

3. Implement escalation procedures: Define escalation paths and criteria for escalating incidents based on severity, impact, and resolution timeframes.

4. Prioritize communication: Maintain transparent and timely communication with stakeholders throughout the incident lifecycle. It is always a good idea to share regular updates on progress and resolution efforts.  

5. Provide comprehensive training: Train your IT support team and relevant stakeholders on effectively using the software for incident reporting, collaboration, and communication.

6. Customize dashboards and reports: Configure dashboards and reports to provide insights relevant to different teams and incident types.

7. Integrate with existing tools: Sync your major incident management software with existing ITSM tools, monitoring systems, and asset management software for a holistic view and streamlined workflows.

8. Document and learn: Record incident details, response actions, and lessons learned during post-incident reviews for increasing knowledge base. Such exhaustive incident logging helps in identifying and resolving a similar issue in less time, in case it occurs in the future.

9. Automate where possible: Use automation tools and incident management software to detect incidents proactively and respond faster. This helps save efforts of your service desk and makes the overall process more efficient.  

By following the above best practices, you can leverage your major incident management software to its full potential. This will empower your IT team to minimize downtime and ensure business continuity during major incidents. This will also ensure less disruptions and faster resolution for employees.

An intelligent major incident management software helps you implement these best practices and streamlining the incident management process through effective collaboration among incident response teams.

Features of a major incident management software

Major incident management software goes beyond basic incident management tools by offering specialized functionalities. Here are some key features to look for:

  1. Centralized platform: Provides a single point of entry for logging and tracking all incidents, ensuring a clear overview of ongoing issues.
  2. Multiple incident sources: Allows reporting incidents through various channels, including email, self-service portal, chat, or even SMS.
  3. User-friendly reporting: A good incident management software should make it super easy for end-users or employees to report incidents. For instance, instead of adding basic information manually, the software can add it on its own and send it to stakeholders automatically.  
  4. Incident categorization and prioritization: Enables efficient classification and prioritization of incidents based on severity, impact, and urgency.
  5. Customizable workflows: Allows defining automated workflows for incident handling, assigning tasks, and escalating issues based on predefined rules.
  6. Collaboration tools: Built-in collaboration tools, such as chat functionality and incident timelines, facilitate real-time communication and coordination among response teams.
  7. External communication channels: Offers options to notify users about incident updates and status changes through email, SMS, or self-service portal updates.
  8. Pre-defined communication templates: Provide set templates within the software for faster and consistent messaging during major incidents. This helps overcome confusion and panic among employees.
  9. Incident reporting: Generates comprehensive reports on incident trends, resolution times, and team performance, providing valuable insights for improvement. This also helps in building self-service tools for repetitive or minor queries.
  10. Root cause analysis: Provides tools and functionalities to analyze incident data and identify the underlying causes of recurring issues.
  11. Integration capabilities: Integration with other ITSM tools and systems, such as monitoring tools and CMDBs, to streamline incident detection and resolution workflows.
  12. Mobile accessibility: Enables access to the incident management platform and incident updates from mobile devices.
  13. Security: Provides robust security measures to protect sensitive incident data and user information.

Elevate major incident management with Atomicwork

At Atomicwork, we understand the importance of an effective major incident management system in maintaining business continuity and customer satisfaction. Our incident management capabilities empower organizations to proactively detect, respond to, and resolve major incidents with speed and precision. With Atomicwork, you can streamline your incident response processes, improve collaboration among response teams, and minimize the impact of major incidents on your business operations.

Here is how Atomicwork helps your IT Team in mastering incident management:

1. Powered by automation

With Atom, you can automate identifying, grouping, and prioritizing incidents.

Atom intelligently recognizes and groups incidents, eliminating the need for human intervention to initiate the incident management process.

major incident management software

2. Understand incidents in detail

With Atom, you can easily detect patterns in incidents and frequent issues to enhance your incident playbooks. You can also dig deeper by analyzing incidents based on severity, impacted areas, customized attributes, and additional factors.

major incident management analyics

3. Set up incident management workflows

Atom enables you to establish workflows that do not need a human to trigger them when an incident is created, updated, or priority changes.

This way, the team can initiate incident playbooks without the need to manually and prioritize incidents. These playbooks cover tasks like assigning agents and executing actions within Azure AD, Okta, and BambooHR.

major incident management automation

4. Keep end-users informed at all stages

Atom lets you manage all your incidents in one place. This enables IT teams to send regular updates and coordinate all actions from the primary incident effectively.

Major incident management communication

5. Strengthen the knowledge base

With Atom, IT teams learn more about the incidents which helps them stay on top and resolve issues faster. With intuitive chatbot support, employees can add context by attaching images, documents, and error logs relevant to the incident.

conversational incident management

In conclusion, mastering major incident management is essential for organizations seeking to mitigate the impact of major disruptions on their IT services and operations. By understanding the major incident management process, adopting best practices, and leveraging purpose-built incident management software, organizations can effectively navigate through major incidents and emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity.

Want to prevent major incidents in your organization? Get in touch with us and we will be happy to help you out.


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Frequently asked questions

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