We’ve been hearing an awful lot about major incidents lately. People are dispensing advice on how to prevent them, limit them, and resolve them.

But we always seem to be missing the most fundamental piece of information: Just what the heck is a major incident?

Best Practices in Major Incident Management Communications

Read our complimentary white paper, Best Practices in Major Incident Management.

Why we have to define it
Justice Potter Stewart famously coined the phrase, “I’ll know it when I see it,” when talking about of all things indecency, and the phrase has since been used to describe military victory and major incidents. That definition was OK at one time.

But today, our hyperconnected society will not allow it. Your customers will have a business disruption all over social media and the internet before your IT department has alerted your executives.

So here’s the challenging part: There is no one standard universally accepted definition. That being said, each company needs to define it in order to recognize it immediately and start resolving it.

Whatever your company’s definition of a major incident, general consensus says that IT and the business must agree on it.

Three criteria
Most experts including ITIL agree that it comes down to three criteria: urgency, impact, and severity.

Urgency represents the effect the incident has on deadlines. So your IT workers are resolving an issue and your PR department is explaining it, they’re not doing their primary jobs and deadlines slip.

Impact is the impact to your business from financial damage to lawsuits to reputation.

Severity is the impact to your end users, from longer hours to unfinished work to job loss.

The big deal
Defining a major incident for your company is crucial because it will allow you to get started communicating it to resolvers. This is a huge deal because for many companies just finding the resolver takes at least as long as resolving the issue.

Every minute counts because businesses often start to suffer the impact of a major incident in less than 15 minutes. And at that point, if you’re still discovering you’re having a major incident, you’ve got problems.

You can learn more by reading our white paper, Best Practices in Major Incident Management Communications, available now on our website.