For any organisation, an incident causing a loss of ability to properly deliver service to an end user can be disastrous. This is especially the case in the IT sector, where downtime can cause major losses and effect multiple aspects of an end user’s operations, resulting in financial losses to the customer and reputational damage and possible loss of contracts to the service provider. These incidents can range from simple product failures on the customer’s end to serious hardware problems on the part of the provider. To minimise this downtime, businesses can implement incident management solutions, allowing faster categorisation and responses to critical incidents. But exactly what is incident management and how can we use it to make our organisations more reliable and more efficient?
In its most basic form, incident management is a single point of contact for customers and employees to report problems. This can take the form of a simple phone hotline, or it can be done via a web portal or software application where more detailed information can be shared. A team of staff will be responsible for the system, taking charge of the logging and categorization of an issue and then coordinating a response or deciding when to escalate the incident and involve higher level managers. This team will typically be located in a control room or help desk area and will have to track a wide variety of issues and relay information between the end user and the team responding to the issue.
Whilst an effective incident management plan should eventually deal with most issues, relying on the manual logging of problems raises a host of potential problems. Firstly, the workload placed on service desk or control room staff can be exceedingly large due to the sheer volume of requests for service that can come in over a single day, meaning that employees can already be swamped by work when critical incidents are flagged, slowing the response. Furthermore, the capacity for human error means that when alarms are raised, they can be categorised incorrectly as low priority or even forgotten entirely, worsening the situation. Additionally, overworked staff can relay wrong information to responders and managers, resulting in a breakdown of communication and delaying a resolution. Thankfully, we can improve efficiency and reduce risk by automating large parts of these processes.
Critical alarm management systems provide a layer of automation once an incident report has been filed. Depending on preset criteria, the system will assign it a priority and forward it to the relevant specialists to deal with, meaning that before a member of the control room or service desk team even look at the call, a response is already in motion. The critical alarm management system integrates into existing systems, meaning that the manual work required of the staff is noticeably reduced and they are free to deal with monitoring day to day operations. This means that the team won’t get swamped by low priority incidents and will be free to concentrate on serious issues.
Additionally, the system will take care of following up on the initial contact. Once the incident has been assigned, automated notifications are sent to the relevant staff, who can then confirm that they are dealing with the issue or ask for it to be reassigned. Lack of a response will result in it being escalated to a manager after an agreed time limit has expired, so that they can take steps to ensure the problem is dealt with and that it does not spiral out of control. By correctly triaging incidents to the correct response staff, the system will also cut down on disruption in other departments, as high priority calls will not be constantly redirected due to specific employees being designated to deal with certain kinds of incidents. Once staff are dealing with the incident, they can provide updates directly to the system, which will keep track of the information and display it to the incident management team for review. This allows easy communication between the end user, the response team and management, all without the incident management team having to get involved in the process and potentially muddy the waters
A further advantage of using a critical alarm management system is that it provides a relatively seamless experience for the end user, who will not have to navigate between different departments and deal with multiple employees who may not be familiar with the product in order to have their problem resolved. Instead, they are able to simply log the incident and receive a reply from a staff member qualified to deal with the issue. Not only does this cut down on the amount of time and effort needed to respond to an incident, but it also makes for a less stressful experience for the customer and leads to higher levels of satisfaction with the service provided.
The automated system will also retain the information relayed through it. This includes updates passed between departments and instructions from managers, as well as external communications with the end user. Due to this, organisations are able to easily examine how they deal with critical incidents, see their strengths and weaknesses and update their incident management plans accordingly. As time goes on and more issues are dealt with, processes will become more and more refined, speeding up response and resolution times and creating a smoother experience for the end user.
In short, upgrading existing systems to utilise a critical alarm management system will drastically reduce the amount of time required to get services back up and running for customers and cut downtime. This is done by shortening the incident management process and freeing up staff to concentrate on important tasks. This speed results in an improved level of service for the end user, which in turn reduces risk to the business itself. Additionally, the automated system ensures that staff are more efficient, and are able to clearly communicate with one another without having to overly involve the incident management team. A critical alarm management system also has the advantage of allowing the easy appraisal of how each incident is dealt with, making staff and the incident management plans they follow more efficient in the future.