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Examples of Major Incident Criteria

The Professor was recently asked for real life examples or best practices for the criteria that organizations have used to define major incidents.
ITIL defines a major incident as an incident that results in significant disruption to the business and so real world examples are going to vary from one business to the next. For a financial services company, for example, a major incident could be an incident affecting live money transactions. For a retail company, a major incident could be an incident affecting its point of sale service. For a manufacturing company, a major incident could be an incident that affects the production line. Simply put… real dollars are being lost.

A major incident could also be a service outage that affects are large number of users. Those users could be your company’s external customers, or it could be your internal employees. So for many organizations, outages affecting the company’s web site, or its email or customer relationship management (CRM) services are viewed as major incidents.

A incident does not have to affect a large number of users, however, to be viewed as a major incident. One company had a small team of people who were responsible for reporting the company’s dealings to the Security Exchange Commission (SEC). If those reports were not filed in a timely manner, the company would face significant fines. Any time these people reported an incident affecting the service used to produce these reports, it was viewed as a major incident. So a major incident could be tied in some way to regulatory controls.

The bottom line is to look at your company. Determine those services that are revenue generating or that really underpin the way your company does business. If you have Availability and IT Service Continuity Management processes in place, look to those for guidance. Any services deemed “vital business functions” and that you would want to restore quickly in the event of a disaster, or that you have taken great pains to ensure high availability, are likely services that would you treat as a major incident in the event that they failed.

ITIL suggests having a separate procedure for handling major incidents and establishing a major incident team under the leadership of a major incident manager. Because this is a great commitment of resource, great care should be taken to ensure that not everything is viewed as a major incident. Remember that something can be viewed as a high priority incident, and still not cross that threshold to being viewed as a major incident.

By working with your customers via the Service Level Management process you can determine what is really critical to your business.

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