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Mastering Incident Resolution: Process and Best Practices

For DevOps and IT teams, incident resolution is an important aspect of predicting, resolving, and documenting service disruptions. It refers to the part of the incident management process where responders restore the service to functioning. Modern technology has come a long way, but it’s not without flaws.

When businesses suffer from cyber-attacks, system crashes, and network outages, it impacts the organization on many levels. There are several tiers of incidents, and resolutions depend on the individual qualities of each incident.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what incident resolution is, how it works, and best practices for DevOps and IT teams.

What is Incident Resolution and Why is it a Thing?

Incident resolution is the systematic approach used to identify, analyze, and resolve disruptions to a service’s typical functionality. Fast resolution is necessary to maintain a reliable business system and keep customers satisfied. A malfunction in one area causes a butterfly effect in others.

System downtime equates to lost time, lost productivity, and lost money. Incidents can cause many costs to a business, many of which aren’t immediately evident. Reputation and income rely heavily on minimal disruptions and fast turnaround. Incident resolution is therefore critical to IT teams.

Role of Effective Incident Resolution in SRE and DevOps

SRE, or site reliability engineering, and DevOps (development and operations) rely heavily on seamless delivery of software services. Incident resolution ensures these services remain effective and function properly.

The incident resolution also bridges gaps between departments, fostering collaboration between the operations and development teams in any organization.

Steps in Incident Resolution 

Incident resolution isn’t a single act. In fact, there are many steps involved. From identifying incidents, to informing stakeholders, to remediating issues, DevOps teams must follow protocols to get to the bottom of the issue.

Here’s a breakdown of common incident resolution protocols:

1. Swift Identification: Recognizing and Acknowledging Incidents

The faster a problem is identified, the faster it can be acknowledged, and a strategy for remediating can begin. Continuous monitoring is the best way to manage incidents in real-time and effectively identify them at the earliest point of access. Learn more about good monitoring tools for incident response.

Incident alerts keep organizations and their DevOps teams informed when incidents arise. This allows fast action and ongoing monitoring of the resolution process.

2. Triage and Prioritization: Categorizing Incident Severity

Not every incident occurs at the same level. The severity of an incident is triaged by category and severity. These are usually labeled as progressive stages of risk and damage. The higher the stage, the greater the priority.

For example, a stage one incident might be a cyber-attack resulting in lost data, while a stage 5 incident might be a 2-minute outage resulting in confusion and potential lost business. Categorizing the severity of these incidents allows IT to tackle them with the appropriate action. Learn more about incident classification.

3. Escalation: Delegating to the Right Team Members 

Delegation is a big part of incident management. Different incident types require specific skill sets. Not every IT or DevOps professional has access to the right tools or training or manages every issue.

The escalation process allows incidents, or portions of an incident, to be delegated to the appropriate party. This ensures a streamlined approach to resolution. Incident management tools like Blameless use role-based guidance to empower effective and consistent work. 

4. Root Cause Analysis: Uncovering the Culprit

Often, the most important aspect of incident response isn’t the resolution but discovering the cause. Fixing a problem is only useful if you can prevent that problem from occurring again. Otherwise, you’ll simply spend time and money fixing the issue over and over again.

Root cause analysis sniffs out the culprit behind the incident. A system outage could be caused by outdated software. A quick update could prevent the outage from occurring again. Other analysis techniques, such as contributing factor analysis, can be more appropriate to view the incident holistically.

5. Communication: Keeping Stakeholders Informed

Transparency is the key to any successful business. When incidents occur, honesty is the best policy. One point of delegation in incident management should be informing the stakeholders. This ensures everyone is on the same page, and there are no secret organizational issues at future stakeholder meetings.

Communicating during incidents can be difficult, however. Engineers don’t want to break their focus to respond to stakeholders’ questions. Blameless solves this problem with CommsFlow, our revolutionary automatic communication tool.

6. Remediation: Taking Action to Resolve the Issue

With all that behind us, it’s now time to tackle the issue head-on. Remediation fixes the incident, rectifying the problem and hopefully, prohibiting it from recurring again.

Knowing the root cause helps you remedy the issue and prevent future incidents of its kind.

7. Validation and Testing: Ensuring Successful Resolution

Once the issue has been resolved, it’s useful to validate how it was repaired. Testing your system based on the repair method helps you ensure the repair was successful. It also ensures the system is once again fully functional.

Best Practices for Effective Incident Resolution

There’s no one-size-fits-all for incident resolution. However, within your business structure, you can organize a “best practices” guide, to help DevOps and IT tackle similar problems in the future.

Some ways to effectively resolve incidents include:

Swift Response: The Essence of Timeliness

The longer an incident remains, the more damage it does. Time is money, and the more time your system spends in disarray, the longer it isn’t doing its job for your team, customers, shareholders, and others. A fast response ensures fast recovery. There’s two major ways to achieve this. First, you can improve the abilities of your system to detect and resolve incidents through tooling and training. Second, you can remove toilsome steps of the response process. Blameless can help with both solutions.

Clear Documentation: Capturing Incident Details in a Retrospective

Detailed retrospective documents clearly indicate the incident, how it occurred, how a team resolved it, and potentially how to fix it in the future. It also provides a level of prioritization for triage in future events. Blameless’s retrospective tool automatically creates documentation for each incident. 

Collaboration: Teamwork in Incident Resolution

There’s no “I” in “team”. Incident resolution takes teamwork and collaboration across a range of departments and skill levels. This is where the above-mentioned delegation comes in. Incident resolution is a team-building exercise.

Post-Incident Analysis: Learning and Continuous Improvement

Once an incident is resolved, teams should analyze how it was resolved, what happened to cause the event, and continue monitoring the issue to ensure it doesn’t recur. Building and reviewing an incident retrospective is essential to this process. This helps develop future responses to similar issues and helps develop more robust fixes to prevent the incident from recurring.

Automation: Streamlining Resolution Processes

Once there are protocols in place, incident resolution can be automated in many ways. Similar triggers or alerts provide information to develop automated responses. These responses might alert your DevOps and IT team, categorize the issue by priority level, or even issue a fix.

Tools and Technologies: Enhancing Incident Resolution

IT and DevOps teams rely on modern tools to manage incidents and enhance resolution protocols. There are many types of tools to help mitigate incidents. Here’s a look at how each tool type works.

Monitoring and Alerting Tools

Monitoring and alerting tools scan systems for potential incidents and other anomalies. They alert your IT and DevOps team when something sinister is detected.

Some top monitoring and alerting tools include:

Incident Management Platforms

Incident management platforms coordinate the lifecycle of the incident. They offer real-time updates, communication, tracking, and support. Top incident management tools include:

Communication Channels

Communication channels let teams communicate swiftly and cohesively across departments or within designated groups. Some of the best communication channel tools are:


Efficient incident reporting and resolution setup is critical to any business model. System downtime leads to financial, reputation, and business loss. The faster incidents are resolved, the better your bottom line.

Recap of Best Practices

To be successful in incident resolution, organizations must:

  • Identify
  • Prioritize/Triage
  • Document
  • Collaborate
  • Analyze (post-incident)
  • Monitor

Companies should invest in the best DevOps tools, automation where possible, and streamlined communication channels.

Hopefully, this guide to mastering incident resolution has been useful. For more information on incident resolution, process, and best practices, contact Blameless today.

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