A critical business service is unavailable… you, the
Incident Manager are coordinating the fix with several IT support resources
including applications and infrastructure teams. Two things are
You (IT) need to restore service as quickly
You (The Incident Manager) need to communicate
with your business on the progress of the restoration.
Depending on your experiences from this type of scenario
you may recall having people from an executive level who like to “get in
there” to help out. At times they have the appearance of a gargoyle, complete with
frightening face, around the corners of your desk. From your perspective they do not appear to be providing any value or
assistance to restoring service.
Why is this happening?
Don’t forget, your IT executives are accountable to your
business as well. They are likely responding to a flurry of enquires regarding
the nature of the issue and how long it will take to restore service.
There are a number of reasons why they are choosing to take this approach, with the most likely reason a communication breakdown. It’s possible that as a result of other
issues, recent or otherwise, that they are lacking the confidence in the
support teams ability to communicate current progress effectively. Notice that
we are talking about communication of the issue not the actual restoration. As
such the executives are regularly being quizzed on the progress of restoration from their superiors and
the business. If they are lacking in details they may look uniformed of the
situation which has an impact on the comfort level that the situation is
under control, even though it may well be.
Take the incident manager for example. Those who have had
to coordinate resources for a fix of any kind will refer to the herding of
cats, however, trying to get a status update may be like trying to bathe the
cats as well. IT support resources don’t like to say “we are still working on
it” they would rather have some tangible solution in the works each time they
are asked. However this might not always be the case. Incident managers, from time to time, may need to
be wordsmiths to a degree. Instead of telling your executive that the issue is “not fixed yet” try saying "we
have tried and ruled out 3 possible issues which have happened in the past as part of our troubleshooting. Our plan is to review and attempt the next possibility which has been supplied by our vendor support resources." In other words - not fixed yet.
Within your Incident process you should have a communications
plan to manage the business and your leadership with regards to communications. For example for all critical
outages you have a communication that goes out to all IT stakeholders (could be
managers and senior leaders) indicating what progress you are making or not. This
communication may be more technical in nature, while a second communication
which is more service specific is delivered to your business. This should be
scheduled regularly, perhaps every hour or so.
If you can position yourself in front of the questions from your senior
leadership they will be able to do the same for their stakeholders. Having your
leadership actively engaging you and your teams shouldn’t be a bad thing, they
are likely looking to support you and IT in getting things fixed. This
relationship just needs to be managed to some level. Once you can get a
consistent process of informing your stakeholders, it should allow your
leadership to build confidence on the updates you are providing. After the issue is over ensure you wrap up the
incident with a post incident review. Make sure it is complete with findings
from the incident whether technical or not to make improvements for the next
time an issue should arise.
Keeping people informed is an important part of the incident process, so ensure you keep your communications skills sharpened.
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Labels: Communication, Incident Management, ITIL, ITSM