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Incident Tracking - How it Works & Why It Matters | Blameless

Looking into incident tracking? We explain what incident tracking is, how it’s done, and why it matters.

What is Incident Tracking?

Incident tracking is the process of identifying and recording incidents so that you can streamline the process and track progress. Incident management software can help with incident tracking.

Every incident, big or small, must be tracked and documented. That way, teams can identify trends over time and make effective data-driven decisions. This also allows teams to not drop the ball when moving the incident through different steps.

What is an Incident?

An incident can be defined as an unplanned interruption to a system’s operation or a reduction in the quality of a system’s service.

Incidents are often confused with problems. However, a problem is the root cause or the underlying issue behind the incident. For example, inadequate server configuration can lead to an outage from overuse, which is the incident. You need to stay on top of the problems to avoid further incidents. 

How Does Incident Tracking Work?

Incidents are inevitable for any organization. Since you cannot avoid them altogether, the best way to tackle them is by preventing their further occurrence, shortening the time to resolution, or reducing their impact. Incident tracking goes alongside the incident management process through every incident. 

Incident tracking works by recording incidents in a centralized location so they can be tracked and the data can be used during the blameless postmortem or retrospective

Incident Tracking Benefits 

Incident tracking is critical to incident management as it helps provide contextual information that influences decisions impacting service quality and operational efficiency. Access to information that identifies, records, and outlines how an incident is managed contributes to increased reliability and user satisfaction. It also enables teams to use learning to continuously improve systems and/or processes in relation to specific conditions.

The key benefits of incident tracking include:

Increased Visibility into the System 

Tracking incidents helps increase visibility into the system. Tracking incident metrics like MTTD (mean time detection), MTBF (mean time between failure), and MTTR (mean time to response) helps teams understand how the system behaves under certain conditions. It also helps them analyze their team’s performance in case of an incident.

Help SLA Compliance

Since incidents are unpredictable, it can be hard to keep up to the service levels guaranteed by your SLAs. Tracking incidents increase the team‘s visibility into the system, which helps them stay informed and SLA compliant. That way, organizations don’t get blindsided with SLA concerns while they already have an incident on hand. SLOs can help safeguard you from reaching your SLA.

Increase Reliability Over Time

The idea behind tracking incidents is so the team can review the incident data later and uncover trends. 

That way, teams understand what’s causing the incident and handle things accordingly, and even make improvements over time.

Improving Customer and User Satisfaction

Quick resolutions reduce the impact incidents have on customers and users, improving their experience. Understanding causes allows teams to proactively make improvements while becoming familiar with specific conditions that increase the risk of incidents in the future. It also allows teams to reduce impact and avoid issues escalating to the point where serious, costly and time-consuming interventions are required.

Mitigating Business Risks

As mentioned above SLAs can lead to contentious issues that could put compliance in question. Through incident tracking, you can mitigate business risks by reducing downtime and the negative impact it has on operations and your brand. You also ensure you can support broader business functions through quicker response.

Incident Tracking Best Practices 

It’s never too late to introduce incident tracking best practices, whether you’re new to tracking or have been doing it for years and want to increase the effectiveness of current processes. Best practices are all about empowering your team and finding ways to tap into knowledge gained when incidents occur. With that in mind, you can adapt the following incident-tracking best practices to enhance your learning opportunities.

Centralize Incident Tracking 

Tracking incidents is a challenge in itself and if you’re tracking them separately, it can cause even more issues. Centralizing incident tracking means that you have all the data in one place, which makes it easier to make decisions. 

Train the Team to Identify and Report Incidents 

Efficient incident management starts with reporting and recording the incident in a timely manner. What happens if an incident occurs and it’s never recorded? We will end up with gaps within our data, which will lead to incorrect trends and uninformed decision making.

Create an Incident Retrospective 

We track incidents because we want to avoid them in the future. To learn from past incidents and make systemic changes to prevent future incidents, use incident retrospectives. An incident retrospective, also known as a postmortem, is a post-incident document that uncovers how the incident happened and helps teams prevent similar incidents. A blameless retrospective can be the difference between a one-time incident and handling the same issue over and over.

Watch for Trends

Trends provide valuable insights that allow you to identify patterns and highlight outliers that require action. Your incident retrospectives can provide statistical data that helps spot trends. Tracking metrics allows you to understand risks and measure performance. Some trends to watch include:

  • Frequency and severity to identify emerging threats and vulnerabilities
  • Root causes and resolutions to identify weaknesses in your response
  • Lessons learned to track the most effective responses to constantly improve as well as help prevent recurrences
  • Indicators of compromises and attacks to become better at spotting risks in the early stages
  • Threat intelligence and context to improve situational awareness so you can become better at anticipating incidents, help prevent them and improve your process
  • Feedback and satisfaction to see where you succeed and fail in meeting expectations to improve your approach, foster trust, find opportunities to improve collaboration, and even help inform SLA points and set SLOs

Invest in Tooling

The right tools empower your engineers to focus on the more important tasks at hand. This is an indirect way to improve your incident tracking. Tools reduce the effort of team members wasting time on things such as filling out forms, manually transferring data, and repeatedly performing the same low-value tasks that a tool could handle. As a result, they can contribute more to the important work that results in meaningful impact in achieving goals.

How Does Incident Tracking Relate to Incident Management?

Incident management is an urgent and impactful — process. Every minute service is down can cost the company thousands of dollars and drives customers away. Everyone wants a reliable system that is available on demand. An efficient incident management system is the backbone of any reliable IT infrastructure. Every step in the incident management process ensures that the incident is tracked. The process starts with logging, categorizing, prioritizing, and responding to the incident.

Tracking various incident management metrics can help organizations diagnose issues within their system and also work toward building a more reliable system. Some common KPIs (key performance indicators) include MTTx metrics (such as MTTA and MTTD) and the number of incidents in a certain time.

A reliable system means that the team can focus on improvements rather than firefighting. After resolving the incident, tools like retrospectives help the teams review and learn from the incident in order to improve the system.

Incident Tracking Tools/Software

An incident tracking software or tool enables you to process IT incidents, troubleshoot issues with your team, and track the overall progress of the incident along the way. Using incident tracking software, your team can learn to manage problems more efficiently and develop measures to prevent the same incidents in the future. 

How to Select an Incident Tracking Software?

Here are a few things that you should look for when selecting an incident tracking software:

  • Provides an overview of all IT assets including software and hardware. 
  • Keep a log of all technical issues. 
  • Process support requests through various channels. 

How can Blameless Help?

Incident tracking can be seamless with the right tools and Blameless provides all those tools on a single platform. We offer a Reliability Insights tool to identify patterns from the noise, automated incident response to address incidents confidently, incident retrospective to review and find systemic solutions, SLO Manager to monitor service reliability, and CommsFlow to streamline and automate communication flowing between various channels. Alongside the tools, Blameless also offers integrations that work with various tool stacks that help teams stay focused on reliability engineering instead of switching from app to app. To learn more about Blameless, request a demo or sign up for our newsletter below.

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