As digital transformation continues to accelerate across all domains of our lives, the pressure is growing for IT teams to deliver seamless service 24x7x365. Incidents that disrupt service not only create inconveniences for users but could also lead to losses of both business and reputation. They may even have costly regulatory or legal ramifications depending on the size and nature of the organization.
To ensure continuous service and reduce the risk of costly outages, IT teams can strengthen their incident management capabilities with automation.
By definition, incident management generally refers to the process by which service is restored in the event of an interruption. The bedrock of most organizations’ strategy for incident management is to craft a detailed incident response plan (IRP), which establishes their exact course of action and delegation of responsibility during future IT incidents. Putting the IRP into practice when disaster strikes, however, is another matter entirely.
Effective incident management requires not only the communication of the incident response plan to team members but the proper implementation of technology that will 1) detect incidents and 2) facilitate expedient resolution. Automation solves both of these problems, allowing for scalable and reliable incident management.
With a plethora of powerful monitoring and observability tools at their disposal, it would be easy to assume that incident management for today’s IT teams is easy. What IT pros know all too well, however, is that these tools must be properly configured to be at all useful in thwarting incidents. This is where automation can make an impact by converting messages from existing systems into actionable alerts that mobilize on-call personnel.
Based on the thresholds set forth in monitoring and observability tools, alerts can be automated to notify on-call technicians of any unusual occurrences that would trigger an incident. If configured properly, such automation also reduces the burden of the on-call team to constantly check monitoring and observability metrics to uncover an incident, instead allowing them to focus their attention elsewhere until they are notified automatically of an incident. In this way, automation maximizes organizations’ existing incident management investments.
It’s easy to see how speed is an important consideration in incident management, with metrics such as Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) and Mean Time to Acknowledge (MTTA) entering the common parlance of IT practitioners. Yet speed in and of itself is worthless if incident alerts are not being delivered to the correct on-call personnel in the event of an emergency. Mismanaged incident alerts can lead to misguided resolution efforts, alert fatigue within IT teams, and extended downtime.
Fortunately, automated on-call scheduling allows administrators to manage exactly who will receive incident alerts in the event of specific types of emergencies or during different shifts. This ensures that incident alerts are being delivered only to technicians who are on-call and ready, while also respecting the valuable personal time of personnel who are off-call and unable to assist.
But what if the on-call personnel is caught up with another incident or completely M.I.A.? To address this concern, automated escalation hierarchies can be created to route messages to another stakeholder if the initial on-call technician does not respond to the alert in a set interval of time. If administrators are struggling to manage the inconsistent availability of on-call personnel, automated escalation hierarchies will restore peace of mind by re-routing incident alerts repeatedly until they reach someone who can step in to assist. Simply put, automation improves incident resolution time and alleviates risks associated with human error.
While the prospect of futuristic automation innovations is exciting for IT professionals, they may not realize that some of the automation solutions already on the market today can vastly enhance their incident management capabilities. Adopting automation now reduces the risk of falling behind the incident response benchmarks of competitors and prepares organizations to more rapidly integrate future automation innovations.
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