Incident Management Buyer's Guide

Here is your comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about when and how to find the best incident management solution for your team

Chapter 3

Signs you need an incident management tool

Signs you need to operationalize your incident management process

Are you always in firefighting mode? The anxiety-fueled rush to put out fires is familiar to most developers, whether it’s because the site is down, an essential feature is broken, or there’s a security breach. This is often exacerbated by the toil of manual work, having to switch between a variety of tools, and the lack of a clear process for responding to, resolving, and learning from incidents. Without an operationalized incident management process, engineering teams often face these problems: 

  1. Alert Fatigue. Separating the most severe alerts from all the noise is a real problem that teams face. While a single alert is easy to respond to, even if it interrupts normal work or free time of an on-call engineer, a dozen alerts in succession is a lot harder, and the more alerts you have, the harder it is to focus on putting out the fires that matter most. 

  2. Disorganized Communication. What’s going on?  Is anyone responding to the incident? When will the incident be resolved? How should we respond to customers? Do we need to have reactive or proactive communications? What’s the severity of the incident?  These are just a handful of questions from customers and internal teams, like Sales, Customer Support, Engineering that you’ve probably  faced. Not only does disorganized communication leave your customers and internal teams in the dark with more questions than answers, it leaves you with more work trying to field these questions and less time to resolve the incident. 

  3. Lack of Visibility for Leadership. Reliability is a business metric, not an engineering metri, which means that Incidents impact every corner of the business from the engineering teams on-call to C-suite leaders. Giving leadership the proper visibility into what is going on, what the customer impact is, and how the incident might impact revenue can make your teams life easier, if more resources are required or if other cross-functional help is needed (if Product Marketing needs to draft proactive customer communications, for example).

  4. Being Unprepared for a Crisis. When sh*t really hits the fan, will you be ready? Do you have a process in place to handle a severe incident and will it make or break your team and company? You don’t want to be left holding the bag, suddenly dealing with a difficult incident without the resources -- time, tools, and processes -- to do so. 

  5. Repeating Mistakes. Once is a mistake, twice is a choice. Any more than that and you dissolve the trust of your customers, internal teams, leadership, and your team’s morale drops significantly. Making the same mistakes again, whether it’s an incident that keeps repeating itself or a process inefficiency that never improves, can make the process of incident management feel like pushing a boulder up a hill in the depths of Hades and your team like Sisyphus.

Do you have a team that can support incident management?

Having a team where the on-call workload is evenly and fairly distributed is key to avoiding  burnout and attrition, concentration of systems knowledge, impaired decision making and accidents, gaps in coverage, and diffusion of responsibility. 

An incident management process can help effectively set up that team and operationalize on-call, while a tool could help you automate the entire process, mitigating the critical vulnerabilities that occur when workload is unevenly distributed. Check out our blog post on why a single person on-call rotation is a critical vulnerability to learn more. 

Keep in mind that the ability to manage and the impact of incidents from start to finish usually goes beyond just the on-call engineers, and requires effort from other engineers, customer support, and other internal teams. 

Are you effectively learning from your incidents?

Successful incident management means improving your reliability, which requires a culture of accountability, learning, and continuous improvement. Having a culture across the company that supports successful incident management means having a team that internalizes and is committed to improving reliability with these in mind: 

  1. Outages are inevitable, so creating an efficient and scalable incident management process is key

  2. Reliability is a feature of your application that needs to be managed, and analytics like uptime are in place to track that

  3. Alerts that indicate customer impact are meaningful, which means reduced alert noise is critical

  4. Learnings from incidents are prioritized and recognized by all levels of the organization to improve reliability

Learn more about FireHydrant

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