How to Deal with Major Incidents

In order to determine how to deal with major incidents, let's recap what they are. ITIL defines them as incidents of highest impact, resulting in a significant disruption to the business. This is a brief, but accurate, statement. Essentially, when such an incident arises, you need to drop anything else and fix it.

Incident Management Is Not Enough

The usual Incident Management procedures established in your organization are of limited use, because they are designed to handle high volume of incidents with minimal use of resources. In other words, you involve just enough people to resolve the incident within the agreed SLA time. You also involve your best experts as last resort, because their support is limited and the most expensive.

Major Incident Management is the Answer

It is different for major incidents. In fact, the best course of action is to have a special procedure for handling them. The purpose of this procedure is to:

  • Accelerate resolution for incidents with high business impact, which cannot wait to be resolved by standard Incident Management procedures.
  • Provide accurate and timely communication to the impacted users and the management.
When, What, Who and... When Again

When you create the Major Incident Procedure, you need to consider two important topics:
  • When to invoke the procedure.
  • The flow of activities that will make up the procedure, i.e. what actions to take, when to take them, and who should be responsible for taking them.
Decision on when to invoke the procedure could prove more difficult than it initially seems. You could be experiencing many incidents of the highest priority every month, but that does not mean every one of them has to invoke the Major Incident Procedure.

There are two ways you could approach this. Either be very formal, and state specifically when the procedure should be used, and when it should not be used. Or, be more liberal and treat it as a tool for your Service Desk agents, which they can use at their discretion. You could still have guidelines when they absolutely have to use it, but you could leave the door open for interpretation in less obvious cases.

Make it Work

My last advice is, as I have said already, keep it simple. Make the procedure one or two pages long. Make the text easy to read, do not clutter it with unnecessary walls of text or excessive diagrams. It needs to be actionable. Now go, and make it happen.


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