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Uptime Blog

Areas to Streamline Incident Management

When a serious incident occurs, time is essential. Streamlining different components of the incident response and management process can help minimize the time it takes to resolve an incident. Proper streamlining also helps reduce downtime, restore functionality, and potentially curtail the overall impact of an incident—not to mention the costs incurred during these events.

This article examines several areas of incident management, the potential challenges of manual implementation, and how an automation platform can alleviate these challenges to provide a streamlined incident response process.

Creating a More Efficient Incident Response

Automating various components of an incident management plan can speed up the process and lessen the burden on incident responders.

On-Call Management

On-call management ensures that a designated group of individuals is responsible for responding to and handling incidents, even outside regular business hours. Depending on the organization, this process may involve creating and maintaining an on-call schedule to ensure constant coverage and awareness of who is on duty.

However, this manual approach can have challenges, beginning with the time and effort associated with mapping out a feasible schedule. Juggling shifting availabilities adds an immediate layer of complexity. Then, once you’ve created a schedule, you must ensure that the on-call individuals have the necessary tools and information to track, manage, and respond to incidents. Ideally, the response plan also involves a uniform approach to incident documentation so that vital information reaches every new shift. It can quickly become cumbersome to perform these tasks manually, so an automated solution can make all the difference.

xMatters provides a self-maintained on-call management solution with simple templates that save you from having to manually oversee on-call schedules and rotations. With this tool, you can organize response teams into groups and schedule them accordingly. Furthermore, the functionality uses on-call information to ensure that only relevant responders receive alerts or handle incoming tickets.

When assigned team members fail to respond within the designated time frame, xMatters automatically delegates the task to a secondary team, creating an escalation path that ensures no incident is overlooked.

Effective Alerts and Notifications

Alerts and notifications can quickly communicate incident information to the appropriate individuals or teams so they can take the proper steps to address the incident and mitigate its impact.

You can manually implement an alert or notification system for on-call personnel via a dedicated platform or communication channels like email and text messages. However, the sheer volume of events and alerts can be overwhelming, making it difficult for incident analysts to identify more urgent or potentially severe issues. Furthermore, notifications may not always contain the most relevant information for resolving the issue at hand, leading to inefficiency and delays in the incident response process.

An automated solution like xMatters Signal Intelligence addresses these obstacles and offers advanced resolution measures. It enables you to set rules for triaging incidents, determining their priority level, and notifying only relevant personnel based on availability and specialty. Then, it provides the most accurate and actionable information so responders can immediately address incidents.

Signal Intelligence also helps reduce the noise of duplicate notifications during an incident, filtering redundancy and even blocking false alarms from triggering response flows.

Workflow Automation

An incident response workflow outlines all the steps to follow when responding to an incident. A structured and integrated workflow ensures predictable, consistent, and effective incident response by your team.

An example of such a workflow is an IT outage workflow. An IT outage workflow may include several steps to follow to ensure the continuity of operations. Outages may occur, for example, when a network goes down or during maintenance and upgrades. The workflow contains information on who to notify and how to trigger which integrations.

You can create such a workflow with xMatters by choosing one of the available pre-built workflow templates from the directory or by using Flow Designer to customize your own. A customized workflow will allow you to create forms, properties, messages, and responses using a combination of your team’s tools.

Another example of incident response workflow is a service notification workflow, which ensures that all relevant parties receive timely notice and can find a resolution as quickly as possible. It may include notifications to technical support teams, service desk personnel, and other relevant stakeholders.

Instead of creating these workflows for sending alerts and notifications, you can integrate xMatters with Slack to receive notifications and alerts directly in your Slack workspace. You can customize response actions according to your needs or use the built-in capabilities to acknowledge them in the chat and escalate when necessary.

Tracking and Managing Incidents

Incident tracking provides a clear and consistent method for identifying and recording incidents. When you have immediate access to thorough documentation, you can quickly identify patterns or trends and use data-driven decisions to respond to and prevent future incidents. However, you have to train part of the incident response team to create sufficient documentation.

You can eliminate the manual tasks of documenting and analyzing incidents with an incident management solution. The xMatters Incident Console allows you to track and manage incidents throughout their lifecycle, from initial reports to post-incident analytics. The Incident Console enables teams to create collaborative channels or add third-party ones such as Zoom Meetings, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. You can also use it to generate reports and analyze data related to incident response efforts.

The incident analytics feature uses several metrics to track the performance of response teams and provides a way to share post-incident reports.

Evaluating the Performance of Incident Response Strategies and Teams

Understanding the effectiveness of your incident response plan requires a detailed assessment of how it performs. To accomplish this, your team can use specific metrics that ensure that the strategy adequately addresses the organization’s needs and effectively responds to incidents.

Assessing your team’s speed and efficacy when responding to incidents is crucial. Some metrics to consider include mean time to detection (MTTD), mean time between failures (MTBF), and mean time to response (MTTR).

MTTD measures how long it takes to detect an incident, MTTR measures how long it takes to respond, and MTBF measures how often incidents occur, with a greater MTBF indicating longer durations between incidents. A high MTTD may indicate a need to improve incident detection capabilities, while a low MTBF may indicate a need to address underlying issues that are exacerbating incidents.

Instead of analyzing performance manually, you can use a tool such as xMatters Performance Analytics to obtain real-time incident details and determine your incident response team’s efficacy and performance. With this tool, you can analyze MTTR, alert volume, priority levels, and how events impact different teams. Alert notifications and event metrics are available on the xMatters dashboard in real time to provide actionable insights and help teams coordinate and resolve issues efficiently.

Diagnosing Root Causes and Deploying Remediation Strategies

Root cause analysis involves systematically analyzing the circumstances leading up to the incident and identifying the underlying causes and potential contributing factors. By identifying the root causes of the incident, you can develop strategies to prevent similar incidents from recurring.

Root cause analysis can involve:

  • Reviewing logs and other data.
  • Conducting interviews with individuals involved in the incident.
  • Analyzing the response process.

After determining the root causes of an incident, the next step is to implement solutions to its underlying causes and create strategies to prevent similar incidents from happening. This step is known as remediation. It may also involve restoring or recovering data or other assets affected by the incident and conducting any necessary follow-up activities, such as performing additional testing or audits to ensure the system is functioning correctly.

xMatters Service Intelligence helps incident resolvers visualize incidents and analyze potential root causes using change intelligence telemetry. This feature provides automatic diagnosis, runbooks, remediation, and intelligent mobilization alerts to allow teams to resolve incidents quickly.

Conclusion

Automating certain aspects of the incident management process can reduce the time it takes to detect, triage, escalate, and resolve incidents. Automation helps classify incidents based on their severity and impact, routing them to the appropriate teams for further investigation and resolution. It also enables thorough documentation and tracking, sending real-time updates and notifications to incident responders.

xMatters’ range of incident response tools can help you automate and streamline your incident management process, saving your team significant time, cost, and effort.

Learn more about enhancing your incident management efficiency with xMatters.

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