What is an Incident in Business or IT?

In the context of business and IT, an incident refers to any event that is not part of the standard operation of a service and which causes, or may cause, an interruption to, or a reduction in, the quality of that service. Incidents can range from minor issues that have little to no impact on the business to major disruptions that can cause significant operational difficulties and financial losses.

Key Aspects of Incidents

  • Unplanned Disruption or Degradation: Incidents typically involve unplanned interruptions or degradation of IT services.
  • Impact on Service Quality: They impact the quality of services, affecting user experience and business operations.
  • Need for Immediate Response: Incidents require a timely response to restore services to their normal operating conditions.

Role and Purpose of Incident Management

Incident Management is a critical component of IT Service Management (ITSM) frameworks like ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). The primary role of incident management is to:

  • Restore Normal Service Operation: Quickly and effectively with minimal impact on business operations and service quality.
  • Minimize Adverse Impact: Reduce the negative effects on business operations.
  • Ensure Best Possible Levels of Service Quality and Availability: Maintain and improve the quality and availability of IT services.

Importance of Incident Management

  • Business Continuity: Effective incident management helps ensure that critical business processes continue functioning despite IT disruptions.
  • Operational Efficiency: Minimizes downtime and maintains the productivity of users and business operations.
  • Risk Mitigation: Helps in identifying and mitigating potential threats to IT services.

Process of Incident Management

  • Incident Identification: Recognition or reporting of an incident, often by users or through IT monitoring systems.
  • Incident Logging: Documenting the incident details in a management system for tracking and analysis.
  • Incident Categorization and Prioritization: Determining the nature of the incident and assigning a priority based on its impact on business operations.
  • Initial Diagnosis: Attempting to identify the underlying cause of the incident or finding a workaround to quickly restore service.
  • Escalation: Referring the incident to higher-level technical experts if it cannot be resolved promptly.
  • Resolution and Recovery: Resolving the incident and restoring normal service operation.
  • Incident Closure: Closing the incident once affected service is confirmed restored and stakeholders are informed.
  • Incident Review: Analyzing the incident for lessons learned and potential improvements in IT systems or processes.

Examples of Incidents

  • Software Issues: Application crashes, system failures, or software bugs.
  • Hardware Failures: Server downtimes, broken peripherals, or network disruptions.
  • Security Breaches: Unauthorized access, data breaches, or virus infections.
  • Human Errors: Incorrect settings, accidental deletions of important data, or configuration errors.

Challenges in Incident Management

  • Rapid Detection: Quickly detecting incidents can be challenging but is crucial to minimize impact.
  • Accurate Diagnosis: Correctly diagnosing the root cause of incidents to prevent recurrence.
  • Resource Allocation: Allocating appropriate resources promptly to resolve incidents can strain limited IT support teams.


In business and IT, managing incidents effectively is crucial for maintaining high levels of service availability and quality. Effective incident management not only restores services quickly but also improves the robustness of IT systems by learning from each incident. This process is a cornerstone of IT service management and plays a vital role in supporting overall business continuity and operational resilience.

See Also

  • Incident Management: Discussing the structured process for responding to unplanned interruptions or reductions in quality of IT services and aiming for service recovery.
  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): Exploring the set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business, including best practices in incident management.
  • Business Continuity Planning (BCP): Covering the processes and procedures that organizations put in place to ensure that essential functions can continue during and after a serious incident or disaster.
  • Disaster recovery: Discussing strategies and procedures for recovering and protecting a business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster.
  • Risk Management: Exploring the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.
  • Change Management: Discussing the business process aimed at ensuring significant changes are implemented in a controlled and coordinated manner to minimize disruptions.
  • Problem Management: Exploring how organizations manage the lifecycle of all problems that could or do occur in an IT service, with the aim of preventing problems and resulting incidents from happening.
  • Security Information Event Management (SIEM): Discussing tools that provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA): Explaining the commitment between a service provider and a client, particularly detailing the expected level of service and response time for incidents.
  • Cyber security Incident Response: Covering the approach and processes involved in addressing and managing the aftermath of a security breach or cyberattack.