To many, incident management and operations management may seem similar though they differ significantly. This difference, which lies in their end goals, also suggests that operations management is much more than incident management. To better understand why, it helps to look at the purpose of each one.
For starters, incident management’s goal is to quickly and effectively resolve an incident while simultaneously mitigating or preventing negative impact on an organization. Afterwards, support teams may move into operations management. The aim then becomes to address the underlying root cause to prevent similar incidents from happening again and, in a broader sense, to consistently make sure that the organization’s overall processes are working smoothly.
With all the headlines today focusing on the coronavirus, it may be relevant to view COVID-19 as an example for our purposes of differentiating incident management from operations management. For instance, incident management would be like treating a patient with COVID-19 symptoms by enforcing a quarantine, prescribing medicine, etc. Meanwhile, operations management is like taking a broader, long-term health strategy by ensuring visibility, control, and effectiveness of the incidents with the end-goal being a full, long-lasting recovery in the fastest, most efficient, and effective way possible.
A closer look at incident management
Let’s first define what an incident is: An incident is a singular event where some aspect of an organization’s internal services isn’t performing as it should be. Think paper jam in the Xerox machine, a broken printer, failed internet connection, or a computer that won’t work properly.
When such unexpected incidents arise at the office, they can disrupt employees’ workdays. If they’re not handled properly and quickly, one single incident can have a negative impact on employee performance and even upset the organization’s core business.
Taking into our world of cloud environments, an incident resulting from a metadata lock, runtime error, a compromised system, and even issues stuck in the queue creating a backlog of unresolved problems.
This is where incident management comes in; it helps you fix and manage these issues so that you can address them as quickly as possible while managing the efficiency of your team in managing and assigning each incident as it occurs.
The incident management process
As we’ve established, incident management is a process focused on returning the performance of your organization’s services to normal as quickly as possible. Ideally, this is done in a manner that has little to no negative impact on your core business. This means that, sometimes, temporary fixes to incidents are preferable before identifying the root of the problem.
Usually, though, after an incident has been reported, standard solutions are quickly applied. Typically, incidents are logged, and the process of solving them is recorded. Once the caller of the incident has been helped, then the open incident is resolved and can be considered closed. Most service organizations follow a matrix of urgency, meaning they consider the degree of urgency and impact of the open incident when determining how to prioritize the response to it. For instance, a high-urgency incident that can lead to high-impact consequence is considered as high-priority and should be processed as quickly as possible. In contrast, less urgent incidents may take a backseat to more pressing ones.
What is operations management?
As the name implies, operations management primarily deals with broader aspects of an organization’s daily operations. It is focused on organizing, planning, and supervising in areas of production, manufacturing, or providing services. Therefore, it aims to ensure that an organization efficiently and successfully turns inputs (i.e. compute, storage, network, applications, even people) into value-added outputs. Operations management aims to reach and maintain maximum efficiency within an organization, which, in turn, helps to improve profitability.
It involves managing people and resources, concentrating on making sure that everything and everyone runs smoothly, on daily and strategic levels. As operations management involves dealing with a lot of different areas across departments, its functions can often be the determinant of an organization’s success (or lack thereof). It therefore makes sense, then, that it is more all-encompassing than incident management. It is, in fact, part of the cornerstone of businesses worldwide.
Importance of operations management
In most cases, operations management involves a broader, more macro view than the micro-focused incident management. This can include strategizing to help the organization meet its business goals, helping to create and maintain budgets, equipment maintenance, and ensuring that employers are following procedures. This also includes monitoring processes and strategies to ensure that they are working as efficiently as possible. This is where incident management may factor in. After all, good incident management means there are no open incidents that negatively affect the bottom line, which is a critical component of operations managers’ ability to ensure that all processes are as efficient as possible.
If incident management is done right, it can help operations management assure improved and/or more efficient work processes, which lead to higher output, better products or services, and more profits.
The bottom line
Implementing effective incident management and operations management can be complicated, whether you are new to the industry or an IT veteran. The key to doing both well, besides knowing their differences, is to focus on the desired outcomes. When finding the processes that work best for your organization, keep in mind that while operations management is much more than incident management, both are integral to a successful business.