team working together at a tableWe all dread incidents. The chaos, the confusion, the stress—if we could avoid them altogether we would. Fortunately, by taking action to prepare in advance we can give our teams the confidence they will be able to handle events and keep users happy.

Atlassian recently created a blog that explored how companies can go about creating effective incident response plans. We highlight some of their key thoughts here, though you can also view their blog if you would like to read more.

Step 1: Define What an “Incident” Is

This seems simple, but it’s a foundational step that too many organizations miss.

Some questions Atlassian suggests considering when creating your definitions are:

  • Is the service completely or partially down?
  • How many customers have been affected? Do they represent a particular segment?
  • Has any data been lost or leaked?

By putting together standard definitions beforehand, you know you won’t have to spend precious time in the moment determining whether an event is or isn’t an incident.

Step 2: Determine Responsibilities

Without clear roles, responses will likely be delayed, duplicated, or both.

Some roles Atlassian recommends include a major incident manager (the principle lead), internal and external communications managers (these individuals will determine what channels should be used and the type of information that will be shared), a customer support lead (this person will lead the support team), and social media leads (they will work alongside support to monitor social media and respond appropriately).

Step 3: Choose Your Communications Channels

There are many ways you can get your message out, which is why it’s important to decide in advance where and how you will do that if an incident occurs. Atlassian recommends thinking strategically and only choosing a few, as that will make the whole process simpler to manage.

You can also consider using a tool like Atlassian’s Statuspage that makes it easy to get the same message out across numerous channels.

Step 4: Stay Consistent

Although it can be chaotic, it’s crucial to make sure you keep on message and present a unified front until the incident is resolved. Atlassian’s recommendation—create incident templates. If you are looking for inspiration, Atlassian has a whole library of templates you can browse.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to find out if your incident response measures work is to test them before something actually goes wrong. Much like fire drills, you can run mock incident scenarios to see how well your plan holds up and make any adjustments necessary to help it perform better in future.

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Andy Mao