Tag Archives: escalation

Escalation procedures

In my last post, I discussed the need to have a “downtime plan”. Part of your downtime plan should include an Escalation Procedure.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I like to assign responsibility of key technology support components to an “Expert”, , , the person I want to empower to own that particular area of support. In the post, we identified e-mail as one of these areas.

Another key area is telecommunications or your Wide Area Network (WAN). When a remote office loses connectivity, your team needs to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, , , your company loses thousands of dollars in lost productivity every hour the remote office is down.

To minimize your downtime and the impact it has, you need an escalation procedure that kicks in as soon as we know an office loses connectivity.

Below is a sample Loss of Connectivity Escalation Procedure:

Problem ownership is clearly defined and specific communications to managers and vendors are spelled out. We have a point person in IT and also in the remote office that has lost connectivity. The point people identify themselves to their manager and make them aware of the problem and advise as to what the status update procedures will be.

In this escalation procedure, we have time limits set up so additional steps are put in motion at 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and every hour after until the problem is resolved. 

A big part of your escalation procedure is keeping management informed. When you have a formalized escalation procedure, everyone knows who will be providing status updates and when. Keeping your client in the loop and out of the dark is key.

It is simple and easy to develop an escalation procedure for dozens of support issues you might have and that will need some level of escalation if they occur.  Here are the steps I would use:

1.  Assign “Expert” responsibilities for the technical support areas you deem important.

2.  Have your Experts identify possible situations that need an escalation procedure.

3.  Review and agree on the set of issues needing escalation procedures.

4.  Have your Experts develop a first cut draft of the troubleshooting and escalation steps that should take place.

5.  Review the procedures and fine tune them with your Expert.

6.  Create an Escalation Procedure Binder and add completed procedures as you develop them.

Your escalation procedures do not need to be lengthy or complex, , , in fact, your goal should be to keep them to 1-2 pages and simple.   

If you focus on this and distribute the work to several Experts, you can create a binder of a dozen or more escalation procedures in a week. You may want to distribute them to affected managers of the company and communicate what they are and how to use them; I would certainly share them myself, but it is your call as to whether you want to. 

The key is that you are providing managers with information so they know what will be taking place in the event of a problem, , , i.e., what you are doing to resolve the issue. IT still retains responsibility to resolve the problem.

Escalation procedures worth considering include: 

  • Loss of connectivity
  • Natural disaster situations (snow day, flood, hurricane, etc.)
  • E-mail
  • Mission critical business applications
  • Mission critical servers
  • Internet and Intranet access
  • Phone system outage

Putting escalation procedures in place demonstrates to others that you are organized and thinking proactively, , , strong images for your clients and senior managers to see in their IT organization.

Do you have a downtime plan?

Technology will break, so sooner or later you will have to deal with downtime. Will you be prepared when it occurs?

Waiting until downtime occurs is not the time to start thinking about how to troubleshoot the issue. It’s much better to have an idea of what to do when this issue comes up.

One of the things you should consider is to appoint an “expert” for each of your key technology support areas, , , things like e-mail, telecom or WAN, each of your mission critical business applications, intranet and internet access, etc.

A key responsibility of each Expert is to define the potential downtime issues that can happen for his technology area of responsibility. For e-mail, it would include things like virus attack, server failure, power outage, etc.

Once the potential downtime issues are identified, the next step is to develop escalation procedures to troubleshoot and resolve each of the issues when and if they occur.

Proactively looking at these issues and developing a downtime plan to attack the problem when it occurs puts you in a much stronger support position, , , and helps you sleep better at night.

Model #63 – Escalation

One of the models in my IT Management Models book is about escalating critical support issues.

Description:
Escalation steps should take place automatically for certain circumstances. Develop processes and teach your IT staff how and when issues should be escalated and to whom the escalation needs to go.

Every type of business has circumstances that justify escalation to higher level managers. Establish your IT escalation procedures to protect the business and to help your team be successful.

There are times when issues need to be escalated to more experienced people in your organization. Sometimes, the information may need to be escalated to senior management outside of your organization. It is important to establish clear escalation procedures in your organization so critical business issues get the proper amount of attention at the earliest possible moment.

Escalating when appropriate should be automatic and simply part of the process of supporting the technology.

Define escalation procedures: What, when, and to whom – When defining the escalation procedures you need in your IT operation, you must be specific as to what requires an escalation act. Define clearly to whom the escalated message should go to or what does one do in the escalation procedure. You also should define when an issue gets escalated. In my IT operations, I will set up escalation procedures for all types of business situations when I believe it will improve our support operation. In a few cases, I want to be notified immediately so I can be sure we are looking at the problem with a management perspective as well as a technical one.

Build escalation procedures that help your team succeed – Escalation procedures can help your team be more successful because they position the team to be more responsive to problem issues that can occur. Getting stronger skills on a “down system” issue quickly in order to minimize the downtime you might incur is a positive thing for all involved.

Escalation procedures protect the business – Protecting the business is our job when it comes to managing technology. Responding quickly and if necessary with an “all hands on deck” response to a critical issue is appropriate when we are talking about mitigating business continuity risk.

Coach your team so they are “automatic”
– You want your escalation procedures to take place automatically. Coach employees, inspect the process with simulated drills, and do what is necessary to get them handling escalation steps automatically; you will be glad you did when they have to escalate an issue.

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