How to have better Service Desk handovers during Major Incidents

The Service Desk is a vital part of Major Incident Management. They are often the inception point for major incidents.

The quantity and quality of information they capture and hand over to the major incident practice determine many things, that ultimately, have a huge impact on the successful management of the major incident.

 If we fail, as an operation to effectively capture the right information, and the right level of information at the start of a major incident then we cannot manage stakeholder confidence via sending quick, effective comms that inspire confidence, and we may not know which Technical Resolving Groups to engage. Costing us valuable time. 

 When Service Desk handovers to the Major Incident Team are of poor quality then we essentially cost the business money, time and our major incident practice reputation and goodwill are affected.

 In The Global Best Practice in IT Major Incident Management® [link to website] we split the Major Incident Process into 3 phases.

  1. Initial 15 minutes
  2. Post 15 minutes
  3. Resolution and closure

 We do this because there are sub-objectives in each phase that Major Incident professionals need to focus on to be effective. We cannot simply fix the issue and not manage stakeholder confidence or let them know about the major incident.

The first phase, the Initial 15 minutes, is where the Major Incident Team are receiving the handover from the Service Desk, engages the Technical Resolving Groups and issues initial comms.

The industry standard was 30 minutes from handover to issue comms and engage the Technical Resolving Groups, but MIM® helped companies to shift this standard to 15 minutes (MIM® Annual Report 2021, 2022). With the right tools that enable speed and automation. With the right process and culture, 15 minutes is more than achievable. However, only if we receive a good handover from the Service Desk. Without a strong handover the 15-minute phase becomes a >30 minute or a 1-hour phase.

So what is actually going on here? Why do we get poor handovers?

Before we talk about the ‘why it occurs’ let's highlight behaviour that makes the situation worse and how to avoid it.

The worse thing a Major Incident Manager can do is kick back a handover to the Service Desk.

If our key objective as a Major Incident Manager is to resolve Major Incidents as quickly as possible while maintaining Stakeholder confidence then this behaviour is in complete opposition to our objective.

No matter how bad the handover you received from the Service Desk is, it will take them longer to go away and acquire more information to give you a good handover than it will for you, the Major Incident Manager, you know, the one with all the experience, contacts, knowledge and experience of major incidents, to get the information yourself.

It also has a secondary effect. Over time it causes a contentious relationship between the Major Incident Team and Service Desk, which is not what we want or need to perform.

As frustrating as it may be you should run with it and correct the poor handover outside of the live major incident. If you kick it back, it will cause additional downtime that could have been avoided.

As I say, we do need to fix poor handovers for the benefit of everyone and the Operation, but doing it during a live major incident is not the right place to address it.

Now, why do poor handovers occur?

  • Culture and relationships
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Clear expectations

Essentially, when someone(s) is not doing what you want professionally there are several potential causes:

  • They do not know what you want them to do
  • They do not know how to do what you want them to do
  • They are not incentivised to do what you want them to do

 How do we address these three things and improve the Service Desk handovers:

 Change your perspective

As Major Incident Managers we are responsible for everything related to a major incident. Including the Service Desk Handover. We need to support them if we want to improve the handover.

Build better relationships

Forge better relationships based on mutual support, understanding & improvement.

Build better mechanisms for success

Provide or help to create mechanisms that ensure success & consistency.

Such as checklists for every member of the service desk & onboarding packs (when someone joins the service desk they get a Major Incident pack with instructions, knowledge & why it is important / the cost of downtime when it goes wrong, videos and how-to guides).

Train the Service Desk

Train the Service Desk staff on how to accurately capture major incident information & support them with ongoing training. Give them a regular event to attend,  ask questions and develop their knowledge about major incidents.

Exception reporting

Work with the Service Desk management to capture poor handovers, identify why they were not at the correct standard, and then offer more support and training. Continue to monitor. Identify increases or decreases in performance and respond accordingly.

This is not exhaustive, there are many ways to improve the Service Desk handover for Major Incidents. It is a common challenge, but one that is easily fixed with some consistent effort and strategic thinking.


About MIM®

MIM® is the professional body dedicated to Global Best Practice for IT Major Incident Management®.
We are transforming the way companies, professionals and IT Operations, reduce major incident downtime.

Our methods and techniques save millions for companies around the globe, supports leading IT specialists and maximises collaboration.

With clients in more than 90 countries, including the world’s largest business and consumer brands, we drive major incident innovation to protect businesses.

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