What is IT Incident Management?

IT incident management is a key aspect of IT service management (ITSM) that helps companies deal with IT-related events in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  The ITIL framework describes an incident as “any event which is not part of the standard operation of a service and which causes, or may cause, an interruption to, or a reduction in, the quality of that service”.

According to Wikipedia, the primary objective of IT incident management is “to restore a normal service operation as quickly as possible and to minimize the impact on business operations, thus ensuring that the best possible levels of service quality and availability are maintained”.

Experts have claimed that companies embarking on ITIL typically implement IT incident management first, since its benefits are most visible, and can be realized most rapidly.

Whether it’s a hardware failure, or a software glitch, formal IT incident management policies can enable organizations to minimize downtime, optimize performance, reduce support costs, and maximize return on their technology investments.  But, in order to achieve successful IT incident management, companies must define and enforce standardized workflows and activities for:

  • Identifying, logging, and categorizing problems
  • Evaluating and diagnosing issues
  • Assigning support “ownership” to specific IT staff members or teams
  • Monitoring and tracking the incident as it is being handled
  • Facilitating communication between the support owner and the impacted end user(s)
  • Incident escalation (when appropriate)
  • Resolution and closure

Additionally, many IT industry pundits believe that reporting is a crucial component of IT incident management.  For example, in order to uncover ongoing problems within their infrastructure, organizations must periodically analyze the number of total incidents by severity and/or category, the number of incidents resolved, the number of incidents reopened, he number of incidents requiring escalation, and other vital metrics.  Additionally, performance indicators such as the average time to restore must also be tracked, to determine if procedures are being followed, and how effectively they are working.

Many confuse IT incident management with problem management, which are both part of ITIL.  It is important to remember the difference.  IT incident management addresses the handling of individual issues, while problem management focuses on the handling of recurring or repeat problems (those that result in multiple incidents).