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Incident Priority Matrix

Alerts routinely present a multipronged challenge to IT: In the time it takes to solve one problem, three or more will appear—quickly growing out of control.

The business relies upon your team for maintaining continuity through reliable services. Running in fire-drill mode 24/7 is counterintuitive to meeting SLAs, as your team will quickly develop alert fatigue from the constant bombardment facing them every day. There needs to be a plan for them to follow.

In developing an effective approach to mitigating unforeseeable issues, it pays to prioritize. This is where constructing an impact urgency priority matrix can pay huge dividends, both in helping maintain your organization’s security posture and reducing IT costs.

Below are best practice guidelines that many global Fortune 500 companies use, and we believe they’ll likely meet your specifications, too.

Note: These are high-level recommendations. You’ll also need to supply more personalized customizations to find the right taxonomic grouping that works best for your organization and to define incident urgency for optimal outcomes.

What is the incident priority matrix?

ITIL, derived from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, provides a set of general best practices in aligning IT services to meet business needs. These tried-and-true recommendations are high level and can be customized to help your IT team meet specific SLAs—providing the best service possible for you.

An ITIL incident priority matrix, as defined by ITIL incident classification, provides a hierarchical guide that defines the potential impact to your IT environment, along with the ranked measurement of urgency for considering prioritization. This allows organizations to focus on which incidents to address first in mitigating impact.

In short, the ITIL incident management priority matrix provides critical baseline information and, by following ITIL urgency impact priority recommendations, your organization will be better prepared to effectively respond and resolve incidents.

Incident urgency and impact

Effective incident management relies on the ability to focus on impact rather than the order in which issues arose. In defining urgency, it’s important to create a hierarchy for handling issues that reflect your business demands—such as restoring customer service as quickly as possible before handling other problems.

If every second lost means more lost revenue, then this should weigh heavily in constructing your urgency impact priority matrix.

Since ITIL is based upon proven best practices, adhering to the ITIL incident management priority matrix as closely as possible should work well for you and your teams. This includes defining what types of issues are urgent, coupled with an analysis of their impact to your environment and the business itself.

In general, many IT departments use the following as guidelines for categorizing incident urgency:

High urgency

  • Mission critical for daily operations
  • Extremely time sensitive
  • Propagation rate rapidly expanding in scope
  • Visibility to business stakeholders or C-suite

Low urgency

  • Optional services (i.e., “nice to have, but not essential”)
  • Issue affects only a small section of the IT environment—not expanding
  • Low visibility in terms of affecting the business

As discussed, the tenets of ITIL rest upon aligning with the business. Meeting SLAs, whatever those terms may be, should guide your organization in defining the differences between incident impact and incident urgency.

For a deeper dive into this particular subject, check out our blog post on determining incident priority.

Assigning incident impact

Impact and urgency are equally important when assigning your incident priority criteria. This plays an important role in clarifying which P1 or P2 issues demand an immediate response.

Presorting incidents by urgency helps to filter noise automatically—calling out issues that need immediate attention vs. those that can wait a little longer. When assigning these criteria, referring to the ITIL impact urgency priority matrix can help you to provide actionable insights and clear guidelines for your team.

Establishing timelines are equally important. Taking your SLAs into account, you can let your team know that an issue meeting a P1 or P2  categorization demands a response within a certain timeframe and by whom.

If issue resolution doesn’t occur within a defined timeframe, escalate the incident and consider stakeholders who should (or shouldn’t) be notified.

PagerDuty is committed to empowering your team with the actionable real-time data it needs to act successfully—following the guidance you provide in your defined incident priority matrix to reduce alert fatigue, downtime, and incident impact.

Try your complimentary PagerDuty priority matrix now.