HelpMaster Service Management Software Blog


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ITIL - What is Incident Management?

Side Box: Incident Management is one of the most fundamental processes within the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). ITIL is a best practise methodology for Help Desks and Service Desks. Incident Management addresses the management of faults within the IT environment, with the goal of restoring normal service as soon as possible.This blog is a continuation of an article written for the PRD Insider newsletter. See the side panel for definitions if you have not got the newsletter.

There are some very helpful methods that can be implemented in HelpMaster Pro to improve the effectiveness of Incident Management. This is real coal face stuff, and is not discussed in the more high level 'process' articles about Incident Management.

These are the sorts of methods I talk about and workshop with Help Desk staff when doing implementation consulting sessions. It really is gold. 

Let’s look at the Incident Management methods mention in the newsletter in more detail.

Job Separation

When logging Jobs separate Incidents (faults) from Service Requests (the business as usual requests). It allows you to justify resource usage; if your incidents are low the environment is stable, if your service requests are high the business might have unreasonable expectations, or if poor processes and training are at fault then you have evidence to persuade departments and users to participate in process improvement and training.

Failing to clearly separate Jobs into these two categories blurs your ability to understand environmental stability, and more importantly, where this instability is impacting customers.

Service Levels (resolution and customer contact time targets) for Incidents are often stricter than those for Service Requests. When the two categories are muddled together Service Requests generally inherit the tighter service levels of Incidents, placing greater pressure on IT to meet unnecessary targets.


Job Categorisation

It is difficult to identify opportunities for improvement when the nature of customer issues is not fully understood and available for analysis.  Well thought out issue categorization (the Issue field within a HelpMaster Pro Job) is essential. For example it is hard to identify a significant  need for user training on the company intranet if this information is captured in free text.  An investment in retraining users on the intranet with a goal to reducing Jobs to a fraction of the original amount is a cost saver. With correct categorisation cost reduction opportunities can be much more easily identified; and where funding must be sought for an initiative then evidence is available to convince those holding the purse strings. Contact me for some example best practise categorisation codes.

Understanding Priority Codes

The handling, resourcing and system automation surrounding an Incident is determined by the priority of the issue. But how is the priority really determined? It is the urgency and impact which determine the priority of an issue.

What is urgency? Sounds obvious, it is how quickly the issue must be resolved, but no....  Consider an issue for a payroll system that is going to impact pay processing. How urgent is that? First reaction is to say 'very'! But not if the issues occurs at the beginning of the month and payroll is not processes until the end of the month! So the urgency in this situation is much lower than it initially appears. So urgency is measure of business criticality where there is an effect upon business deadlines.

Sample urgency codes:

Urgency Code



Event underway and it cannot be stopped or changed AND immediate action could resolve the issue


Event scheduled to occur but enough time remains to respond without impacting event


Event can be postponed OR is far enough away in time to allow response without loss of productivity


No scheduled completion time is required and normal work can continue until responding


Now let’s look at impact. Impact represents the number of users affected by the incident. For example an individual, a team, a department, and an organisation. It is also worth considering a VIP impact category which would elevate the resulting priority of the issue (VIPs like that).

Priority values also need careful definition and understanding. Here is an example:

Priority  Code



Immediate and sustained effort using all available resources until resolved. On-call procedures activated, vendor support invoked.


Technicians respond immediately, assess the situation, may interrupt other staff working low or medium priority jobs for assistance.


Respond using standard procedures and operating within normal supervisory management structures.


Respond using standard operating procedures and as time allows


The urgency and impact values that you have decided on are placed in a matrix to determine the priority (see below).

Priority Impact
Urgency Individual Team Department Organisation
Critical Med Med High Critical
High Low Med Med High
Medium Low Low Med Med
Low Low Low Low Med


The definitions and matrix need to be highly visible to Help Desk staff. There are often spare spaces for a little poster on cubicle walls (in between the kiddie photos).

By careful definition and structure of priority codes, and the underpinning impact and urgency codes, correct and timely handling of incidents will improve!




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