The Importance of Having an Escalation Management Process

“Escalation” is often mentioned when dealing with Incident and Problem Management processes. The ITIL Incident Management process talks about Hierarchical and Functional escalations but did not call out “escalation management” as a separate and important ITIL process within Service Operation.

In my previous organization, escalation management is a well-defined and documented process. It is even handled or managed by a separate dedicated team of people. This “escalation center” function works closely with the Service Desk function. It also supports the field or on-site support engineers who taking on Maintenance and Support roles.

When I started out as a rookie service engineer, the knowledge that there is a team of experts which I can call upon to help out in major incidents or problems is often reassuring. The fact that the Service Desk or an on-site technical or application support engineer has escalated a major incident or problem to the “escalation center” function and there is a team of experts attending to the escalated incident or problem is also reassuring to the Customer.

Escalation Management is to bring order, structure, focused management attention and additional resources to those customer situations which could otherwise result in a high level of customer dissatisfaction and/or damage to the Service Provider’s reputation. These are situations which could lead to significant loss of business to the Customer or IT Service Provider or where significant costs may be incurred by IT Service Provider to resolve the Customer situation. The criteria to trigger an escalation depend on the organization or service provider. But it should be well defined.

The process could consist of the following activities:

  • Initiate an Escalation, based on meeting specific escalation criteria
  • Assign an Escalation manager for the escalation
  • Log the Escalation and link the Escalation record to related Incident or Problem records
  • Escalation manager assigns or appoints the escalation team. The escalation team should include the Incident owner, Problem owner, and other subject matter experts, as required
  • Identify appropriate Service Provider and Customer management contacts
  • Conduct a detailed situation appraisal and review, led by the escalation manager
  • An escalation management action plan, including additional resources needed, is developed in conjunction with the Customer. The escalation management plan is to be executed in parallel with the detailed technical action plan (as per Incident/Problem Management)
  • The escalation management action plan is reviewed and adjusted as required
  • A Hierarchical Escalation (as per Incident Management process) is initiated, if appropriate. Senior management and executives are alerted.
  • Escalation team works to resolve the problem. At each stage, records are updated and management contacts and team are informed of the progress and escalation plan reviewed and adjusted as required.
  • Once resolved to the Customer’s satisfaction, the situation is monitored for an agreed period
  • The escalation team remains on standby and available in case the problem recurs during the monitoring period
  • Once the monitoring period is successfully completed, the escalation is closed by the escalation manager, after seeking agreement with the Customer
  • Once the escalation is closed, a post escalation review is conducted and input provided to the Problem Management process. This can be done in conjunction with the Major Problem Review which is part of Problem Management.

As can be seen above, Escalation Management is closely related to and supports the Incident Management, Request Management and Problem Management processes. It is an important process that should be treated with equal or greater focus as compared to these other well-defined ITIL processes.