8 actionable tips to improve your incident management processes

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Incidents happen in every business. They’re pretty much inevitable.

These incidents can range from major, headline-making security breaches to relatively minor service outages that get resolved in a matter of minutes.

This is where incident management comes in.

Regardless of the size and scope of an incident, the end goal of incident management is to bounce back to normal as soon as possible. Remember, no one likes to deal with downtime or service disruptions!

But to help cut back on this, it’s important to make sure that your incident management processes are as streamlined and scalable as possible. The other part of the equation is having processes in place that everyone feels comfortable with.

Like the saying goes, the best tool is the one you’re actually going to use.

The better prepared you are for incidents, the faster and more efficiently you’ll be able to respond. That said, refining your incident management strategy will help responding teams prepare for whatever unplanned interruptions they might come across.

In this article, I’m going to dive into 8 tips to improve your incident management processes. These touch on every part of the incident lifecycle, so you’ll be covered from end-to-end. These are strategies that we use ourselves at, so believe me when I say they’ve been put through the wringer and work.

By the end, you’ll have all the actionable advice you need to go ahead and improve your own incident management processes.

What is the incident management process?

Before moving on, it’s important to explain what we mean by the incident management process.

The incident management process involves identifying, responding to, correcting, and recovering from unplanned events that affect your business operations. The framework for effective incident management is an incident response plan that will guide your team through every step of handling an incident—from the time an incident is declared until the incident is resolved and a post-mortem has occurred.

In short, it’s a pretty thorough process that covers quite a bit–which is exactly why it’s important to spend time thinking about how to best optimize every step of it.

If any step of this process is off or unrefined, it can disrupt everything else. Think of it like a Jenga tower. Even the most well-built tower will come tumbling down once a center block is removed.

This is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.

Why is incident management important for your business?

It’s hard to distill the importance of having an incident management and response process down to a few sentences. But in short, having a process to respond to incidents helps protect your business from the negative effects of service interruptions, including decreased customer satisfaction, lost revenue, and ultimately damage to your reputation.

When your incident response team quickly resolves incidents, your business becomes more resilient and can build better products in the long-term.

TL;DR there’s a lot at stake here!

8 tips to improve your incident management processes

We just covered a lot! But here come the actual tactics.

From minimizing downtime to establishing continuous improvement practices, an effective incident management process benefits all aspects of your business. These eight incident management best practices can help you improve your incident resolution times.

1. Establish clear incident escalation and notification procedures

First things first, your procedures should outline when and how to communicate about an incident to stakeholders.

These policies will depend on the type, severity, and potential business impact of the incident. For example, a software glitch affecting a single user might only require notification to that user and their manager, whereas a significant outage affecting all users would likely require broad communication, possibly using multiple channels such as email, text, or an external status page.

On the escalation side, being able to identify when an incident actually needs to be bumped up can save you a lot of time responding to “false positives.”

Here at, we call these incident triages. For example, you may get an alert from a monitoring tool, such a Datadog, that an incident is affecting a database.

But it turns out that the incident is actually a tiny bug that doesn’t need to be resolved immediately. In the incident triage phase, this “incident” would then get downgraded, so folks know that they don’t need to respond to it right away.

2. Implement effective incident categorization and prioritization methods

Before determining the best way to handle an incident, you need to classify and prioritize it.

Categorizing an incident involves classifying it so the most appropriate and knowledgeable team can handle it. For example, you can categorize incidents into groups such as hardware, software, network, and service requests.

These categories of incident identification can then be further broken down. A hardware incident might be subcategorized as a server issue, workstation issue, or device issue, while a software incident could be subcategorized as an operating system issue or application issue.

In addition to categorizing incidents so they go to the right people, you need to prioritize them so they can be resolved in the right order. You want to make sure that the most critical incidents—those that affect the most users or have the highest potential business impact—are resolved first.

You can use an impact/urgency matrix to aid in incident prioritization. Impact refers to the extent to which the incident affects business operations. Urgency refers to how quickly the business needs a resolution.

The typical priority levels might be something like:

  • Priority 1 (P1): Critical impact — A business-critical service is down or severely impaired
  • Priority 2 (P2): High impact — A service is significantly degraded or many users are affected
  • Priority 3 (P3): Medium impact — A small number of users or a non-critical service is affected
  • Priority 4 (P4): Low impact — A single user or a non-critical service is affected

4. Regularly review and update incident response plans and procedures

Your incident management playbook is a living document you’ll need to revisit regularly.

Every incident is a learning opportunity, and each one will give you new insights into how you can improve. These insights should be regularly incorporated into your incident response plans and procedures.

Remember, incidents don’t end once they’re closed out and you should be placing a lot of emphasis on learning from your incidents. Speaking of learning…

5. Conduct post-incident analysis and implement lessons learned

As part of your incident resolution process, your team should perform an incident post-mortem to determine the root causes of the failure and what can be done to prevent future incidents.

This incident report will provide an action plan for implementing more effective policies and procedures going forward. It’s a powerful tool for continually improving your incident management process.

It’s worth mentioning that these post-incident analyses should always be blameless. If folks start to sense a culture of finger pointing, your post-incident analyses will suffer. So focus less on identifying the "who" behind and incident and instead focus on the "what" and how you can improve processes to avoid similar ones in the future.

6. Provide ongoing training and education for incident management teams

Again, learning never stops.

Your incident response team, regardless of how much experience they have, needs to be prepared for the complex challenges they’ll face. The tech environment is advancing at an ever-increasing pace, and your team’s skills will quickly become outdated if you aren’t proactive in providing ongoing education. Consider regular skills development opportunities to keep your team updated on topics such as:

  • Your company’s internal incident management process
  • New tools and technologies
  • The latest cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities
  • Industry best practices

7. Foster a culture of continuous improvement in incident management

Continuous improvement is built into the incident response process.

As your team responds to and analyzes incidents, you’ll refine your process with each one. However, you must create the right company culture for this process to thrive.

Like I said before, incidents should be analyzed in an accepting, open environment devoted to learning, not one of blame.

As part of your continual improvement process, establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your team’s progress. Measure these at baseline and regularly review them for improvement. Some KPIs you can measure include:

  • Uptime percentage
  • Escalation rate
  • Cost per ticket
  • Average incident response time
  • Mean time to acknowledge
  • Mean resolution time
  • Incidents over time

8. Utilize incident management tools and software for streamlined processes

Incident management software provides a centralized platform where incidents can be reported, categorized, prioritized, assigned, tracked, and resolved to make your service management process faster and more transparent.

Look for tools with the following functionalities:

  • A centralized system that allows incidents to be logged, tracked, and managed in a structured way
  • Monitoring tools that automatically detect abnormalities
  • Automations that route certain types of incidents to specific teams
  • Workflows that can guide your response team step by step through your incident response plan
  • Dashboards that highlight any areas of improvement in your incident response processes
  • Reporting and analytics tools that provide metrics such as the number of incidents reported, the average time to resolution, and trends over time

Make the heart of your incident management stack

Hopefully, after reading this, you have a clearer understanding of what you can do to make meaningful improvements to the way you manage incidents.

If you’re looking for a solution that can do everything I outlined here, and more, then you’ll want to check out

Between our auto-generated post-mortems, Status Pages, Workflows, integrations, and so much more, we've made it sensible to make the core of your incident management response processes.

Want to learn more? Sign up for a demo.

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