Automated Incident Management | Everything You Should Know

Automated Incident Management | Everything You Should Know

Looking into automated incident management? We explain everything you need to know about what automated incident management is, why it’s important, and how to do it.

What is Automated Incident Management?

Automated incident management is the process of automating incident response to ensure that critical events are detected and addressed in the most efficient and consistent manner.  

In incident management, time is of the essence and the primary benefit of automated incident management is speed. With automation, you can accomplish time-consuming tasks much quicker. This brings down the incident response time and allows the team to focus their attention on matters that require their expertise. 

What is Incident Management?

Incident management is the process of responding to an unplanned event or service interruption and restoring the service back to its operational state. In any incident, the most important thing is to resolve it quickly, which is why it’s important to formalize a process and stick to it. There are generally four steps involved in the incident management process:

  • Incident identification and logging
  • Incident categorization 
  • Incident prioritization 
  • Incident response

Examples of Automated Incident Management

Automation in incident management is most beneficial in two types of incidents: time-critical incidents, and straightforward incidents. An example of a time-critical incident can be a technical issue that impacts the customer directly. If your customer is impacted, then you want to resolve the incident as quickly as possible. 

On the other hand, a simple incident such as a printer connectivity issue can also be automated. Since the process is straightforward and can be resolved without human involvement, you can use runbook automation to automate the process and make things simple.

Why is Automated Incident Management Important?

Faster MTTD and MTTR 

The primary benefit of an automated incident management system is speed. By minimizing human intervention, you will cut down the Mean Time to Detection (MTTD) and Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR)

Fewer False Positives 

In incident management, alerts are both useful and troublesome. Among real and actionable alerts are often false-positive notifications, which can lead to alert fatigue – employees becoming desensitized to alerts becoming of their overwhelming volume. With automation, the tool will analyze the alerts and triage them to the right team members saving valuable time and resources. 

Less Room for Human Error

Managing everything from the incident resolution to data entry manually can leave you vulnerable to small mistakes. For example, you may forget to update the status of an issue or miss an important notification. With an automated incident management system, the response team does not need to constantly switch between apps and perform manual tasks. They can rather invest that time working on issues that require their attention. 

Automated Tracking of the Ticket’s Progress

Communication is a big concern in incident management. The C-suite executives want to be notified about everything and the other team members want to stay in the loop. In automated incident management, everyone involved in the process is automatically notified via messaging tools at every stage of the ticket’s lifecycle. This makes the process transparent and allows the team to manage the incident instead of managing notifications and providing status updates.

Gives Your Organization a Competitive Advantage

When it comes to incident management, organizations still aren’t making any substantial efforts. Research by IBM indicates that 77% of organizations do not have a consistent cybersecurity incident response plan in place and the cost of a data breach has hit its high during the pandemic. Investing in an incident management team and plan can reduce the data breach costs. 

Companies that have an incident response team along with a tested incident response plan in place had an average breach cost of $3.25 million. On the other hand, companies that had neither a plan nor a team in place experienced an average cost of $5.71 million. Having an incident management process in place makes a difference of 54.9%, and with an automated incident management process in place, the number can be even higher. 

5 Steps to Automate Your Incident Management Process

Step 1: Create an Incident Management Workflow

To automate your incident management process, the first step is to create an incident management workflow. Also known as the incident lifecycle, the incident workflow describes the step-by-step process of what happens when an incident occurs. The main steps involved in an incident workflow are:

  1. Identification 
  2. Prioritization
  3. Response 
  4. Resolution 

For every organization, the incident management lifecycle is unique and customized accordingly. The key to designing an incident management workflow is to get feedback from everyone involved in the process and list all the steps they take and the data they need to resolve an incident.  The workflow needs to put everything into perspective, but you will likely find many people disagreeing on how to do things and gather data. This is why it’s better to map the workflow on paper before automating the process. 

Step 2: Standardize Incident Prioritization

The second step is to standardize incident prioritization. In order to respond appropriately, you need to know the severity and root cause of the issue. Many businesses use the priority matrix to prioritize incidents. 

An incident priority matrix uses a P1 to P5 numeric scale to measure the priority and response for an incident. The P1 is considered a top priority and requires an immediate response. An example of a P1 incident is a server issue that may cause the entire system to go down. The urgency/impact of the incidents decreases as you go down the priority scale. Over time, the organization collects risk data, which can be assessed to define the standard for P1 to P5 incidents. It’s important for everyone to agree on the methodology. 

Step 3: Runbook Automation 

Runbooks, also known as playbooks, are documents that outline the step-by-step process of walking through a certain task. The purpose of developing playbooks is to ease the cognitive load by clearly outlining the process for common tasks. Runbook automation takes things one step further and eliminates toil by including software in the process that runs the step automatically triggered by a certain situation. Not only do runbooks save time but also standardize the process and make it more consistent. 

Step 4: Collect Data for Retrospectives

A critical step in incident management is data collection. Throughout the process of incident management, the team needs to ensure that they’re collecting real-time data to develop incident retrospectives and minimize the impact of the incident in the future. 

Data collection begins from the moment the incident is reported. As soon as someone identifies an incident or monitoring tools detect it, alerting procedures contact the people required to begin responding based on the incident’s classification. Throughout the incident management process, the monitoring and observability tools are collecting data. You should be able to access the data in real-time and use it later in retrospectives. 

Step 5: Centralize the Process and Integrate with Third-party Software 

For the incident management process to run smoothly, you need to integrate with third-party tools such as Blameless, Slack, or JIRA and act as a middleman. Switching between communication and other apps is not only time-consuming but you may also miss critical information. An automated incident management tool will make the process efficient by collecting data in the background and updating incidents side by side automatically. Meanwhile, the team can also view reports and events in real-time. 

How to Choose an Automated Incident Management Tool?

Choosing an incident management tool is a big decision for any organization. The secret to a well-managed incident is using a collection of tools for various tasks. The collection of tools ranges from tools for communication to alerting to managing runbooks. Regardless of its specific use case, every incident management tool has three attributes in common: 

  • Reliability 
  • Accessibility
  • Adaptability

The most important quality of an incident management tool is reliability as we don't want to deal with new issues when there is already an incident on hand. Additionally, the tool must be accessible to everyone across the organization and can adapt to the ever-changing business scenarios and trends. 

How Can Blameless Help with Automated Incident Management?

Without automation, incident management can be a long, complex, and messy process. While switching between and recording information, you may end up missing critical parts. With the Automated Incident Response tool, you can manage incidents confidently and stay focused during those critical moments. The main feature of the tool is offering a centralized location to resolve incidents, which reduces cognitive load and time to resolution. It also captures incident data that can be accessed in real-time or used to develop incident retrospectives. Blameless also integrates with third-party tools such as Slack, MS Teams, JIRA, and others to act as a middleman assistant. Blameless CommsFlow keeps stakeholders up to date without breaking focus for engineers. Sign up for our newsletter below or schedule a demo to learn more about Blameless.