The DevOps Definition of Incident Management

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DevOps is generally defined as a methodology for tightening the relationship between development and operations teams in order to release reliable software faster. DevOps combines the efficiency of CI/CD, Agile software development, and code accountability with improved system visibility and rapid incident response. In this sense, DevOps isn’t only speeding up how quickly you deliver new services, it also speeds up how quickly you remediate incidents.

Incident management becomes a highly collaborative and transparent workflow with DevOps. Through a combination of efficient people, processes, and tools, your team can make the most of DevOps–adding visibility into system health and allowing you to quickly resolve incidents. Incident management in a DevOps culture is highly efficient and highly differentiated from the way incident management has been defined in the past.

Let’s dive deeper into the basics of incident management, the way IT operations teams have traditionally approached it, and how DevOps is changing the game.

Basics of Incident Management

No matter where you’re at in the incident management maturity model, incident management functionally boils down to five key steps. Improving these steps comes from continuously improving the way people work within your processes and tools. To understand how DevOps makes the incident lifecycle more efficient, we first need to look at the details of the five stages of the lifecycle.

  • Step 1: Detection

Of course, the team needs to first detect an incident before they can work on fixing the issue. So, establishing a system for monitoring, alerting, and visualizing system health is the start of an effective approach to incident management. The faster you can detect an incident in your infrastructure or service and identify what’s likely happening, the faster you can start responding to the incident.

  • Step 2: Response

In our State of On-Call Report, we found that, on average, incident response takes up 73% of an incident’s total lifecycle. Because response relies heavily on the interaction between humans and technology, it makes sense that it takes up the lion’s share of the incident lifecycle. But, effective incident management teams can always find intuitive ways to deepen collaboration and automate workflows–making incident response faster.

  • Step 3: Remediation

Oddly enough, incident resolution rarely takes up much time during the incident lifecycle. Once an issue has been detected and responded to, the incident is usually remediated relatively quickly. As long as incident response is well organized and the right person is looking into the issue, the fix should be fairly simple. Of course, every issue is different, but an efficient system for detection and response will naturally lead to much faster incident remediation.

  • Step 4: Analysis

Your work isn’t done once you’ve resolved an incident. Mature incident management teams will then conduct a detailed post-incident review and analyze an incident to see how they can make the system more robust. Not only should your post-incident analysis look into how you can make your service more reliable, but it should look into the people operations and processes behind incident detection, response, and remediation. A thorough post-incident review template will help you identify action items that will create a more cohesive incident management process between people and technology.

  • Step 5: Preparedness

With each incident you encounter, your team becomes more prepared for the next. By following through on each of the previous 4 stages of the incident lifecycle, your team continuously improves the way they manage incidents. By learning from past incidents, your team can prepare for future incidents by preparing runbook documentation, processes, and tools to maximize the productivity of incident management workflows.

Creating a Culture of Reliability

Creating a DevOps Culture

No matter the type of culture or organizational structure you’ve built, your team will encounter incidents in your applications and infrastructure. In order to build reliable systems, it’s imperative to always strive for zero downtime but understand that 100% uptime is simply unattainable in today’s software development and IT operations landscape. But, a culture of DevOps can help get you closer than any other methodology currently available.

The core tenets of building a DevOps culture (exposure, collaboration, continuous improvement, accountability, transparency, and automation) all feed into making the incident lifecycle easier. For DevOps-oriented teams, their core philosophies directly correlate with efficient processes for incident management. Therefore, incident management needs to be a core responsibility when discussing the definition of effective DevOps teams.

By deepening the collaboration between developers and operations teams, everyone gets more exposure to systems in production, making incident response and remediation more intuitive across the entire organization. Then, by leveraging the transparency of DevOps teams and centralizing incident data, everyone takes further ownership of the code they write and can use the information to automate future processes–making incident management suck less. DevOps values help people across disparate teams to collaborate more, build more reliable services, and continuously improve operational effectiveness.

DevOps in the Incident Lifecycle

DevOps can streamline both the software delivery lifecycle and the incident lifecycle. With DevOps, IT operations professionals better understand the SDLC and developers better understand the incident lifecycle. Then, more people can effectively collaborate around issues before and after deployments to production. A DevOps culture leads to a deeper organizational understanding of both staging and production environments, helping the people behind systems to quickly diagnose, respond to, and remediate incidents.

In the incident lifecycle, DevOps teams have their hands in every single step. And with every incident that occurs, people should learn more about the way a system functions and how the team reacts to problems. By combining the values of DevOps with an understanding of the incident lifecycle, you can create a highly efficient incident management team and define incident management metrics that help you measure success over time.

See how DevOps teams are building successful incident management workflows in VictorOps. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to start working DevOps values like collaboration and automation into your incident response workflows.

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