IT Service Management: Incident Management

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IT Management
23.11.2022
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In the early days of creating and developing IT-related technologies, the focus was on the creation of software or computer applications. However, in recent years, it shifted towards creating systems that are designed to provide a particular service. For example, websites and mobile apps are being developed to make lives better and create more efficient services. Thus, corporate leaders and managers are now into IT Service Management, hereinafter referred to as ITSM. In order to have an effective ITSM within a business model that relies heavily on IT-related technologies, an organization’s ITSM department must demonstrate a certain level of expertise when it comes to the following processes, namely event management, incident management (IM), request fulfillment, access management, and problem management (Jantti & Cater-Steel, 2017). One of the most important components of ITSM is incident management due to its ability to link customers and business operations so that a reliable incident management procedure can help business leaders identify problematic areas and deficiencies for the purpose of customer satisfaction and customer retention. Therefore, a relevant and efficient ITSM framework is evidenced by a robust incident management component that can demonstrate several critical success factors.

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Key Issues

Nowadays, there are two key issues when it comes to incident management, hereinafter known as IM. The first key issue is the unplanned interruption to the expected service, as a specific type or quality of service was promised to be delivered beforehand by a provider, and this promise was made to a customer. Second, there is a reduction in the quality of a particular IT service. With regards to the first key issue, a primary component of IM is a need to resolve problems related to the unplanned interruption of a particular service. For example, one can consider the typical business model of the 21st century, especially those that was built around IT-related technologies. Such type of services is characterized by an offer of a plan or bundled service, and a provider assures the delivery of a particular service. In most cases, there are no other intermediaries, as the client’s computer, TV, mobile device, or network is connected to a particular system, and the content or service is streamed or relayed to the end user. In this particular business model, the usual problems are not linked to the tangible product or service that requires the presence of workers. In most cases the products or services are transmitted via a network or data transmission facility. Thus, it is important to establish a mechanism in place that alerts a provider of any type of service interruption. In an ideal scenario, there is no need for a customer to call in the event of an unplanned service interruption. However, if a client calls to report a problem, a mechanism is in place to handle the request for assistance.

With regards to the second key issue, another primary component of IM is a need to resolve issues regarding declining performance levels or degradation of a company’s quality of service. For instance, the problematic scenario in a company might promise to provide high-quality streaming services. At the beginning of the business relationship, a provider was able to hold up to the end of the deal by supplying or offering a certain level of service. A client expects to receive the same kind of service on a daily basis. However, after a period of time, there are unforeseen issues or maintenance-related problems that affect the delivery of the same quality of service. In an ideal scenario, a client needs not call any representative in order to report a problem. However, when a client calls in order to report a bad connection or abysmal streaming quality, a company should have a mechanism in place that can handle the said request.

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The Framework

The framework is ITSM and highlights a need for an IM process in order to resolve the aforementioned key issues. The overarching paradigm when it comes to the discussion of incident management is the description of the topic from a process-oriented approach. The said approach covers two concepts that require greater scrutiny when it comes to the ITSM and IM. The first concept is the preventive aspect of IM. The second concept is the corrective aspect of IM. It is imperative to use this framework, as through a process-oriented approach, the business leaders or managers are able to measure the performance of a particular service while, at the same time, reacting to certain bottlenecks or issues that prevent a company from providing high-quality service (Jantti & Cater-Steel, 2017). As a result, the description of ITSM in general and IM in particular requires the identification of process goals. The description component of the topic must also identify the benefits of IM. Finally, the description of the said subject matter must also cover the key activities, outputs, and metrics (Jantti & Carter-Steel, 2017). Thus, the final documentation of this exercise would reveal how corporate leaders and managers should be able to understand an organization’s quality issues and goals from a process capability point of view.

Primary Content

In order to have an effective ITSM, it is important to introduce a robust IM capability, and the presentation of this topic begins with overarching description of the need for prevention and correction processes. It is followed by the discussion regarding the process of accurately identifying service disruption and service failures. The next step is the discussion of the data collection regarding the said issues and ways how to correctly categorize the problems for easier resolution. Such step must be followed up by the implementation of a process that provides an accurate feedback, and the managers, supervisors, or specialists must focus on this task since it is not possible to work on all type of problems at once. In a simple or routine problem, a specialist or technician assigned to trouble-shoot the said issue quickly offers a recommendation to solve the problem, and the issue gets resolved in the most cost-effective manner. Finally, a report is made to document the resolution of the said concern. In other cases, the resolution does not come automatically using pre-programmed solutions or answers. Thus, in these instances, the problem is escalated to someone higher up in the hierarchy of problem solvers. The same process repeats until the issue has been completely resolved, the process documented, and insights were revealed, which contributes to a company’s ultimate goal of continuous process improvement. The presentation of the topic requires the identification of six critical success factors, and these are listed as follows: the development of an effective IM process, the establishment of a culture that promotes prudent prevention and timely correction, the acquisition of benefits pertaining to increased user and customer satisfaction, improvements in service capability, financial savings due to improved performance, and the acquisition of improved decision-making and risk reduction capabilities (Vieira, 2018). The following sections expound the intended message regarding the said critical success factors.

The Development of an Effective IM Process

Incident Identification

At the highest level of efficiency, disruptions and quality issues are being addressed even before the customers are made aware that such issues exist. Nonetheless, in the event that a customer notices a problem and contacts a company’s customer-relations or customer service representatives, an incident identification can either be one of two things. It can be either a service disruption, service failure, or quality-related problem. An integrated system can make the initial identification, if not, then a customer makes the call. Such action of identifying or naming an issue initiates the IM process.

Incident Logging

Regardless of the method of identification, whether it is a system generated report regarding a particular issue or a customer called the attention of customer-service relations agents, there is a process that records the problem identification or creation of an incident report. Moreover, there is a background process that logs the said incident. It is an important step, as the data recorded on this stage of the process can help in the improvement of the organization’s ITSM department. It is imperative not only to record the incident but also all the pertinent details, such as user information and related configuration.

Incident Categorization

In a nutshell, incident categorization is the process of understanding the nature of an issue. A well-developed IM process allows for easier categorization, as it makes use of trends and recorded incidents that bore similarities to the one being mentioned by a user or customer (BMC, 2018). The categorization phase of the IM process is a critical step, as it helps save time and effort due to the ability of the system to figure out who deals with the said incident and what type of resources are needed in order to resolve an issue. Such juncture in the IM process can be enhanced even further by creating groups of specialists that are going to handle specific issues only.

Incident Prioritization

After clearing the categorization phase of the IM process, the next step is to trigger the prioritization action. In this way, the more urgent issues are pushed to the top. Issues that are going to have long-term effects and create more damage to the system are prioritized over less critical issues. Incidents that are also going to affect the reputation in a significant manner are also categorized with the highest priority level over other less important issues. More complicated issues are also bumped to the first priority group. It is also prudent to group similar incidents together in order to prevent repetitive actions and cause inefficiencies in the system.

Incident Diagnosis

In order to resolve the problem in the most cost-effective manner, it is imperative to accurately diagnose it. Therefore, it is crucial to work closely with a user in order to collect pertinent information that caused an issue. One way of improving the process is to train analysts or customer support staff regarding the nature of certain issues and how to quickly identify these problems and link to appropriate solutions. The process is enhanced by allowing the analyst or the technical support staff to have ready access to references and other repository of information that can help diagnose a problem.

Escalation – If Necessary

The main goal of any customer support system or the first line of defense in the context of IM is to resolve the issue as quick as possible. However, there are times when level 1 support or trouble-shooting teams are unable to provide a solution, therefore requiring higher level assistance (Persse, 2013). In these cases, an analyst or support group must rely on higher level of expertise. As a result, the case or incident is escalated to level 2 or tier 2 and this escalation process continues through the hierarchy until the issue gets resolved to the satisfaction of a user or customer.

Incident Resolution

The speed and quality of the resolution process is affected by two things. First, it is affected by the quality of the classification or categorization process. For example, if an incident was labelled wrong and sent to the wrong specialist or wrong group, then it takes some time before the IM team recognizes the error and sends it back to the processing ques. The second important factor is the knowledge and skill of those who are tasked to resolve a problem. If these men and women were not adequately trained to serve in that capacity, then they are not going to do a good job.

Incident Closure

Once the problem has been resolved, it is not enough to move on to the next challenge. The end goal is not just to resolve the issue but also prevent the same thing from occurring once more in the future. Moreover, there is a need to learn from the said incident in order to pinpoint vulnerabilities within the system. Finally, all pertinent information is collected, and this includes customer or user feedback not only with regards to the problem that was resolved earlier but also the user or client’s reaction to the IM process.

The Establishment of a Culture that Promotes Prudent Prevention and Timely Corrections

All the insights, discoveries, and knowledge acquisition that occurred during the IM process must be collected and analyzed in order to improve the overall business operations and business model. At the end, the goal is not only to resolve the problems at the shortest time possible but prevent the occurrence of the same. Since it is unlikely that an enterprise would not encounter issues in the near future, the full utilization of all feedback and information related to the issue must give rise to an IM process characterized by swift action. It is imperative to establish a corporate culture that encourages preventive measures and quick resolutions whenever possible.

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The Acquisition of Benefits Pertaining to Increased User or Customer Satisfaction

It is not enough to simply deal with the problems when clients or users call to complain of disruptions or quality issues, as the long-term goal is to retain customers and make them realize that there is no other provider that can offer the best service. One can argue that when two companies are competing for a bigger slice of the market, the similarities in the business models and the product or service offerings are possible. Thus, in a highly competitive industry, the distinguishing feature that separates one business enterprise from another can be the type of customer service provided to the clients. Thus, it would not hurt a company if the IM process is enhanced even further by adding a component of customer relations that is exemplified through constant communication and updates while solving a particular problem.

Improvements in Service Capability

Another important critical factor for success is the creation of an ITSM component that leads to improvement in service capability. In other words, the IM process is not only created for the purpose of helping users experience quick restoration of system failure, its main purpose is also expressed through enhancing a company’s capability to provide better service (Cherwell, 2018). Therefore, information gathered throughout the process of solving different types of issues should help the members of the IM process teams to figure the pattern of vulnerabilities and defects. Moreover, they are going to consistently analyze the weakness of the current configuration in order to figure out the root cause of an issue. Moreover, they can help find out how to improve the overall design of the system, hence mitigating the consequences of potential errors and other vulnerabilities.

Financial Savings Due to Improved Performance

Another critical success factor is financial savings as a result of improved performance. The IM process must be successful enough to reduce the incidence of service disruptions and quality issues. Nowadays, there are several ways to generate savings. One can look at the reduction in the deployment of resources in either solving hardware problems or employing specialists or analysts to solve complex problems. In other words, every time an issue has been resolved, the root cause of major problems is being identified as well. Thus, every time the managers invest in improving the system and eliminating vulnerabilities, the system becomes more reliable and efficient. The significant level of savings that can be generated is dependent on how a company can develop a system that automatically prevents errors and fixes problems with minimal human intervention.

The Acquisition of Improved Decision-Making and Risk Reduction Capabilities

At the final stage of the development framework for the creation of a reliable and cost-effective IM process, the end goal is not just to improve the system, save money, and reduce the incidence of failures and vulnerabilities but also the emergence of an ITSM department that can handle incident identification and categorization at a much more efficient manner. Thus, a highly successful system is made evident by the speed of the decision-making process without having to do the work over and over again. It quickly identifies the problem and provides solution at the shortest time possible while not demanding the heavy utilization of resources. Once these manifestations and expressions of an efficient and effective system have been demonstrated, a company’s business leaders and managers can be confident of a reliable and relevant ITSM made possible by a robust IM process.

Critical Factors of Incident Management

It has been made clear through the discussion of the nature of an ITSM framework and one of its core component, incident management, that highest standard of excellence is measured by the ITSM’s ability to prevent and solves issues in a timely and most cost-efficient manner. Thus, it has to be the ultimate goal of the business leaders and managers to establish an ITSM framework to create the IM process that operates with minimal human intervention. In an ideal scenario, the ITSM system is in place in order to continually monitor the system for vulnerabilities and problems that can lead to service disruption or low-quality outputs. As a result, an active system serves like a sentinel protecting the IT-related assets of a company for the purpose of providing top quality service to the users. When the system detects an emergency, weakness, or disruptive errors, it has the capability to provide remedy without causing any alarms from the end-user’s point of view and from the managers. It is going to be a smooth operation from all aspects.

Although it is the ultimate goal of every business leader to establish a system that runs with minimal intervention from the developers and managers, there are unforeseen problems and other technical difficulties that are going to cause disruptions and inconsistent delivery of high-quality service. Thus, the IM process must become the first line of defense. In order to ensure that an effective and successful IM process is being created and deployed, the main goals of the creation and deployment of the said IM process must go beyond service continuity but also focus on improvements in service capability as well as reduction in the incidence of errors, vulnerabilities, and customer retention through enhanced customer service relations.

Critical Success Factors

The presentation of the topic revealed that a relevant and efficient ITSM framework is evidenced by a robust incident management component that can demonstrate several critical success factors. In this case, a cost-efficient IM is evidenced by the following critical success factors or CSF: the development of an effective IM process, the establishment of a culture that promotes prudent prevention and timely correction, the acquisition of benefits pertaining to increased user and customer satisfaction, improvements in service capability, financial savings due to improved performance, and the acquisition of improved decision-making and risk reduction capabilities. In other words, the IM component is not just for show but something that demonstrates results, and the first CSF is the creation of an effective IM process. Once the IM process has been created, its success is exemplified by the rest of the CSF mentioned earlier. However, the six CSFs identified earlier can be simplified by stating that the overall goal of the system is the creation of the ITSM with an IM process that prevents disruptions and reduction in the quality of the service provided. Such capability is balanced by another attribute, which is the ability of the ITSM framework with an IM component that quickly restores the disrupted service and ensures that the same problem would not recur in the near future. The said CSFs are made possible by the careful deployment of the IM process that only seeks to resolve the issues at hand but, at the same time, initiates an ongoing improvement process. Moreover, there is a pragmatic process of data collection and analysis in order to determine the root cause of the problem for the purpose of eliminating vulnerabilities and enhancing the service delivery process that mitigates the impact of future errors and vulnerabilities as well as decrease the incidence of failures, disruptions, and quality problems in order to retain customer loyalty and increase customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

The discussion of the topic made clear that in order to have an effective ITSM framework, it is best to establish the incident management procedure that one can test using a metric defined as critical success factors. The following CSF is used to do that, namely the creation of an IM process, the establishment of a culture that promotes prudent prevention and timely correction, the acquisition of benefits pertaining to the increased user and customer satisfaction, improvements in service capability, financial savings due to improved performance, and the acquisition of improved decision-making and risk reduction capabilities. Thus, the IM component of the ITSM framework has to be tested and must demonstrate specific results. The positive impact of the six CSF demonstrated the effectiveness of the ITSM’s IM component.

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