How IT Teams Can Master Escalation Management

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How IT Teams Can Master Escalation Management

In order for IT to resolve an issue properly, they need to have the tools accessible to make the proper escalations possible.

· Agile Zone ·
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IT teams use the term "escalation" to define a couple of different processes. Escalation can define how an IT engineer escalates an issue to receive assistance from a colleague. Escalation can also describe how an automated alert escalates through a digital on-call group. Importantly, each of these must be managed responsibly to ensure teams avoid undue escalations while maintaining proper IT management.

This blog will delve into both definitions and highlight the manner in which IT teams can improve each.

Challenge of Effective Communication

The objective of IT incident management is to maintain stability. When service is disrupted or fails to deliver, IT teams must return these processes to proper service as quickly as possible. Indeed, any condition such as the inability to access software or downed servers has the potential to degrade service.

However, at times, the skills of a level-one support team are exceeded by the demands of the request. According to ITIL, escalations should occur when the skill set of the team initially assigned the task is exceeded. But this definition can quickly become slippery. How does a team know when to escalate an issue? Effective communication can help but knowing when an IT is out of their depths is challenging. 

Ideally, IT teams should prevent un-needed escalations by having the tools and training they need to be successful. Managers should coach team members to take ownership of difficult situations and avoid passing the buck. This means that team members have the ability to communicate with colleagues to arrive at the answer in a difficult situation.

Escalation for Better Communication

While effective communication can be challenging in the best of circumstances, it can be especially trying when an internal or external customer is facing an issue. To achieve a resolution, there are a number of tools that IT engineers should have at their disposal in order to expedite resolution of the issue.

  • The first maxim of true incident management is to develop runbooks so that teams can manage incidents as independently as possible
  • The second maxim of true incident management actually suggests a tool to not use. This rule is to never use email to effectively escalate and manage an event. Escalation can easily generate an overwhelming number of emails notifications which can effectively derail the incident management process.
  • The third component of effective escalation management is to use a critical messaging application with priority messaging. Engineers need to have the ability to instantaneously communicate with one another when attempting to resolve issues. If an event is a high priority alert, then the engineer needs to have the ability to send a high priority message. Similarly, if an incident does not need immediate attention, it should arrive to the engineer as a low priority alert.
  • By using attachments, IT teams can amplify explanations through documents or screenshots. Often, these items are much better at explaining an issue than a much longer text.

Challenges of Digital Escalation

Many IT teams define digital escalation as raising the priority of an issue by alerting the whole on-call group to an incident. Unfortunately, this practice often works to create alert overload. Sending alerts to everyone all the time can result in alerts being treated as noise. If the whole team is being alerted then the individual engineer is left to believe that another team member will respond to the alert.

Alert Escalation Best Practices

  • Best practices for escalating the actual alerts focus on tying alerts to a digital scheduler — that is, alerts should be tied to an on-call group schedule so only the engineer on call receives the alert. This sort of design ensures accountability.
  • Ensure there’s an escalation order and a defined escalation group to your digital scheduler. If the first engineer on-call is unavailable or is occupied with another issue, the alert should escalate to the next engineer on-call.
  • Establish an escalation factor to determine what defines an acceptable response to an alert notification for your team. Are you satisfied if the alert has been read or does the alert need to be read and responded to in order for the escalation to end?


When IT hears the word "escalation," they know there is an important issue to resolve. For IT to resolve the issue properly, they need to have the tools accessible to make these escalations possible. Download this escalation whitepaper for more tips on how IT can master escalation management.

agile, escalation management, incident management, it teams

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