Glossary - Incident Management

What is Incident Management?

Incident management is a process of ITSM that focuses on restoring the functioning of your organization’s services to normal service operation. It is the role of the IT service desk to manage incidents which could be anything from a computer with malware to an outage of the organization’s internet. 

catherine heath

Last updated: October 14, 2022

8 mins read

In any workplace, there will always be disruptions that present an obstacle to the productivity of employees. Not least of all IT equipment and infrastructure, which has a habit of going wrong without any identifiable cause. When such a situation occurs, what usually happens is the employee will log an incident with the IT department. 

This is where incident management comes into play. IT teams need to be equipped to be handling incidents submitted by employees and have a process in place to deal with them. The purpose of IT Service Management (ITSM) is to improve the way that IT services are delivered of which incident management is one core process. 

The IT service desk has to be well-prepared to deal with all manner of incidents that may be raised by frustrated employees, before the issue snowballs into a massive problem that will be much harder to fix. 

In this article, we look at incident management, its benefits, how the incident management process works, incident management software and best practices for incident management. 

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What is incident management?

Incident management is a process of ITSM that focuses on restoring the functioning of your organization’s services to normal service operation. It is the role of the IT service desk to manage incidents which could be anything from a computer with malware to an outage of the organization’s internet. 

The goal of incident management is to maintain the business’s core operations as efficiently as possible, which sometimes requires settling for temporary fixes for the service user’s issues. Only later does the service desk investigate the root cause of the problem and try to prevent it recurring. 

An incident is defined as any situation which can cause disruption to or a result in a loss of services. Incident management is the process of the essential maintenance taken by the service desk to analyze, identify and fix issues, logging them in the system for future reference. 

The incident is monitored by service desk employees until it is resolved. Currently opened incidents are categorized and prioritized in the ITSM tool to help decide which incidents are the most urgent and impactful. Incidents with high impact and urgency are dealt with first as they have the most severe chance of affecting critical business processes.  

Incident management is a standard process of IT teams that want to follow ITSM guidelines for delivering IT services. 

Incident vs service request

There is a big difference between an incident and a service request. Incident logging is when customers alert the service desk to a service disruption and are seeking a fix, while a service request is a more routine application for a service to be provided such as the installation of new software. Service requests are unrelated to potential business disruptions caused by malfunctions or errors. 

By definition, service requests are considered a lower priority request by IT service teams because the user can still proceed with their work. If business operations are hampered by critical issues, then these would be logged as an incident. 

The benefits of having an incident management process

Without incident management, even routine incidents have the potential to disrupt IT services and cause a loss of employee productivity across the organization. IT service desks struggle to keep track of a flood of incidents, and issues begin to slip through the cracks. 

Improved service quality

When IT service desks have the right ITSM tools in place they can prioritize incidents based on standard criteria and deal with them more effectively, improving the likelihood of resolving incidents. The agents with the right skills can be assigned to deal with particular incidents and related incidents can be linked together for better problem-solving and improved service quality. The ITSM tool keeps track of incidents right from when they are first logged to when the issue is resolved, resulting in better incident management overall. 

Help meet Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Robust incident management processes ensure that IT service desks are adequately meeting SLAs and fulfilling the promise that has been made to customers. Accurately logging and prioritizing incidents helps teams keep track of spikes in activities and allocate resources accordingly. If SLAs are not met, IT teams can investigate the reasons why and strive to improve adherence in the future. 

Stop future incidents

Once incidents have been accurately logged and resolved, the insight into this incident resolution can be integrated into the service desk’s store of knowledge and they can conduct root cause analysis. Insight into past incident resolution can help to solve future incidents much more quickly and speed up the time to restoration of service. It’s easier to identify when incidents warrant further investigation. Tickets can be deflected using a self service portal such as a knowledge base, which provides helpful resources to customers and means they don’t need to contact the service desk. 

Enhance the employee experience

When employees have an easy way to log and resolve incidents, their experience of IT services is vastly improved. If employees have a variety of channels they can use to contact the service desk, it’s easy for them to reach a service desk employee and obtain a response for their incident. Minimizing downtime for the business results in a better employee experience. 

Better processes for the IT team

Your IT department is better equipped to handle incidents through following well-constructed incident management processes that make it clear how to respond to incidents. Analyzing, identifying and recording incidents helps make the team more productive and assign the incident to the correct service desk agent. Machine learning can automatically assign tickets to the right agent to speed up resolution, while AI can recommend solutions to customers immediately. 

More visibility into incidents

Customers contacting the service desk are able to use a portal to log and track issues, staying in the loop as incidents are managed and resolved. It’s easy for them to submit further information regarding the incident and to stay updated on the status of their ticket. In turn, service desk employees are able to see who is working on incidents and ensure none slip through the cracks. 

Incident management examples

Single user-related incident

A single user-related incident is when one customer experiences an issue within the business. For example, they may have a problem logging into software which isn’t resolved even when they reset their password. In such a case, the customer contacts the IT service desk where an agent takes the details of the incident and logs them in the ITSM system. After verifying the customer works for the company, the agent accesses the administrator portal and identifies the issue. The agent resets the customer’s profile in the system and the problem is solved. 

Multi-user service incident

Multi-user service incidents are when more than one employee is experiencing a problem with the service, such as everyone having an issue accessing the company’s invoicing system. Service desk agents notice that they are all dealing with the same type of incident which can then all be related to a single incident ticket so they can be dealt with centrally. Engineers in the IT service desk can work to restore connectivity and then update all customers at once to assure them the problem has been fixed. 

Major IT service incident

A major IT service incident affects everyone in the entire company and causes major disruption to core business processes. For example, the company’s internet might be down which means no one can complete their work or communicate with customers. The incident is logged in the incident management system as a major incident and everyone collaborates to get it resolved. The service desk calls the vendor who assures them that the problem is on their side and is going to be fixed as soon as possible. When operations are restored to normal and the major incident resolved, the entire company is alerted and the root cause of the problem will be analyzed in the next incident review meeting. 

The incident management process

The incident management process has certain repeatable steps that service agents can perform every time an incident comes in. 

Incident logging

A new incident is recorded by the system and opens a new customer ticket. It can be logged by the user or the IT technician. The agent must capture all the relevant information in a form template and provide easy channels for the customer to communicate with the service desk. 

Notification and escalation

This step depends on how an incident is categorized and how severe it is. If an incident triggers an alert, it will be escalated to the appropriate agent, who will then go through the protocols that must be followed in order to resolve the ticket. 

Incident classification

Incidents are classified with the correct category or subcategory to help assign to the right group or agent. It usually happens automatically when the correct fields are set up for classification which then helps with prioritization. 

Incident prioritization

Incidents are properly prioritized to ensure that they meet the SLA for the service response, ensuring that essential business processes are maintained. Teams can focus on high priority incidents that affect the functioning of the business. 

Investigation and diagnosis

After an incident has been logged in the system, the IT team will investigate and diagnose the problem, providing a solution to the customer. If a solution is not available, the ticket will be escalated to Tier II or Tier III teams. 

Incident resolution and closure

Once the incident has been fixed to the satisfaction of the user and service desk, the incident is resolved and closed. After closure, the service desk works to understand how the issue can be prevented in the future. 

3 great incident management tools

IT teams need incident management software to help them deliver the best incident management. 

Jira Service Management

Jira Service Management is an incident management tool that can be adapted to meet your unique needs. Empower every team, from IT to HR to legal, to set up a service desk quickly and continuously adapt at scale. Deliver great service experiences fast – without the complexity of traditional ITSM solutions.


Opsgenie is a modern incident management platform that ensures critical incidents are never missed, and actions are taken by the right people in the shortest possible time. Opsgenie receives alerts from your monitoring systems and custom applications and categorizes each alert based on importance and timing.


Freshservice is a smart incident management tool to increase agent productivity and help with the management of customer tickets. You can filter tickets by incidents and service requests, as well as its properties, and due date. Collaborate with your team from a single screen and know who’s working on a ticket, its priority, and status.

Incident management best practices

Make your service desk accessible

Employees should have multiple ways to contact your service desk, ranging from phone, to email, to mobile. It should be easy for customers to stay in touch with your agents and keep track of the status of their incident. Make sure that customers are aware that the service desk exists so they can log their incidents straight away. 

Learn from prior incidents

It’s important to look back at incidents that have occurred and analyze the root cause behind the incident. You can identify ways the incident could have been prevented in the first place and use these to stop future incidents. If the incident does happen again, you will be better placed to deal with it. 

Standardize your process

Every time an incident comes into your service desk it should be dealt with in the same way to provide a consistent experience to your customers. Following standardized processes ensures every service desk agent knows how to handle an incident and keeps service level quality high. 

Log every incident

No matter how small, every incident should be logged in your ITSM tool with enough contextual information to help any agent understand the issue. Logging every incident helps your agents keep track of the volume and improves your team’s ability to look back at past incidents for review. 

Wrapping up

Effective incident management is essential for high-performing IT departments who want to improve the way they approach customer tickets and identify critical incidents. Incidents are often high-priority and threaten the overall health of the business, and as such they need to be dealt with quickly. Often, the same issue can affect more than one user and incident management can help to aggregate tickets together for faster resolutions. 

It helps keep your processes standardized and contributes to the proper functioning of the business. Service desk agents are empowered to provide effective help to employees to restore service functionality as quickly as possible. It’s important for agents to be able to accurately identify what qualifies as an incident as compared to a service request. 

The incident management process is the same every time and helps deliver a consistent customer experience. Agents know what is expected of them and this helps speed up the resolution of customer tickets. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at

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