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Incident management: Communication best practices

This article was originally published here on December 05, 2017.

Major incidents are a normal part of business, particularly for companies with a large dependency on technology and data.

When major incidents happen, business processes, the ability to deliver products and services to customers and/or the ability to ensure the security and integrity of company data are often compromised.

The effects of major incidents may be most immediately visible in the form of operational impacts, but the big and lasting impacts are your company’s reputation with shareholders, regulators and customers.

Managing reputational impact effectively must be a central goal of a company’s major incident management processes. Studies have shown that the perception of how you manage a major incident is often more meaningful to stakeholders than the technical details of the incident itself.

This is good for incident managers because perception is entirely within their control.

Why stakeholder communications are important

The reason you must be diligent and deliberate about your stakeholder communications during a major incident is because you are controlling the narrative and version of events to which people can respond.

Virima will help your incident responders identify the stakeholders who must be engaged and how to communicate, so the interactions can be direct and consistent and will develop stakeholder trust.

Without clear and organized stakeholder communications, everyone will seek his or her own version of the facts, develop opinions on the impacts/implications of the event and spin the narrative based on his or her perspective and biases. This can be dangerous because you have little if any control of the perceptions of the incident and how it is managed.

Communication plan

An effective stakeholder communication strategy is intended to guide perception by:

  1. Invoking a calm response to the situation — balancing a healthy sense of importance and urgency with a sense of controlled restraint.
  2. Instilling confidence in the team working on the issue that they know what they are doing and have control of the situation.
  3. Developing a common understanding of the technical issues and business impact of the situation to support thoughtful decision-making about actions that may need to be taken.

High quality major incident communication

To achieve these objectives and manage perceptions effectively, stakeholder communications must be targeted to the right audience, include the right amount of information, and communicate the impact and technical details of the situation in a way that allows recipients to understand what is occurring without being overwhelmed or mired in details.

They must also be able to trust the information they are receiving is complete, current and accurate — avoiding the need to search for supplemental information from other sources. How information is presented influences quality factors more than the content itself.

Using visualizations in stakeholder communications

As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. When a major incident is occurring, there is often much context that must be conveyed and complexity that must be separated, so stakeholders are able to focus their attention on the pieces of the situation that actually matter.

Visualizations can help. IT systems operate within the context of business processes, physical locations and dependency chains that are often difficult to depict in words, but with the right picture, stakeholders can easily understand where the problem is and how it impacts them.

Visualization and mapping capabilities like those found in Virima can depict the impacts of a major incident visually and be explained with simple business terms. This is what is broken. These connect to it. These are the business processes, operations or locations which use those components, systems, processes, etc. to complete the job.

Incident mitigation with visualizations

Mitigation steps can similarly be explained using visualizations. We are redirecting the connections to provide partial service to users while we fix what is broken or we will deploy these network security guard capabilities around the edge of the environment to stop the attackers from entering from the outside. The words may be overly simple , but they can be simple because the picture is telling the rest of the story.

Stakeholder communications are your primary control points when a major incident occurs. They create the common narrative and guide stakeholder perceptions about how well the incident is being managed and whether stakeholders must be alarmed.

With visualization capabilities from Virima, you can transform your operational data into pictures of the incident with the right shapes and colors, so your explanations are direct, concise and impactful.

Virima is here to help. To get started, contact us today to schedule a demo and explore the possibilities!

If you’d like to publish us in your publication, please reach out to us at info@virima.com

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Virima is a SaaS platform that solves your toughest IT operations management and reporting challenges. Learn about the various IT challenges IT Asset Discovery, App & Service Dependency Mapping, IT Asset Management, Build a CMDB, Change Management etc.

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