Netreo provides a powerful, easy-to-use solution for your entire IT Landscape
The moment after an incident is resolved is perhaps the most relaxing for any IT team. When your system is finally functioning properly it puts the entire organization at ease, but the most daunting task is yet to come: root cause analysis (RCA). Akin to football teams watching previous plays to pinpoint areas of improvement, root cause analysis goes through data and finds what initially caused the incident.
Analyzing the root cause of a problem presents a unique challenge for an organization. There can be many factors that make the process harder, from too many alerts to lack of documentation. Perhaps the most detrimental is not having a set procedure in place. This key step is missing from many organizations’ incident plans. Any good incident plan includes a process, not just a requirement, for root cause analysis. You can read about one of Netreo’s favorite process methodologies here.
Note that there are a few things that can be done during incident resolution before starting the process of root cause analysis. These tasks make root cause analysis easier; such as assigning and defining roles, establishing best practices, and leveraging available tools. Although, each enterprise will have different needs depending on its functions and size. Avoid major incidents by clearly defining the roles, functions, and scope of each role. The following are a few key roles that each organization should have:
Key roles for effective Root-Cause Analysis in organizations
- Incident Lead
An incident lead will act as a captain, as each incident should have only one incident lead. Having strong command skills and experience in incident management is paramount. They should also be able to understand problem diagnosis and resolution. Their general knowledge should extend beyond the system monitoring and diagnostics tools to the application and infrastructure component, as well as the engineering tools available. They will direct resources where they’re needed the most and will drive all problem resolution actions as needed. Since this is the role that is effectively in charge, they will be responsible for collecting the data needed for final root cause analysis.
- Service Lead
A service lead will help direct the restoration efforts and set priorities based on their knowledge of what is important to the business. They should be an experienced engineer or manager who understands the system aspects and delivery requirements for the services that have been impacted. They also should be familiar with and be able to direct service restoration routines and procedures. Service leads are the ones who will know potential downstream impacts that must be considered and addressed. Additionally, they must know which business units and contacts must be engaged to minimize impact while the incident is being worked.
- Technical Lead
A technical lead is a specialist or subject matter expert. This is typically a high-level senior engineer who has a full understanding of the production environment. Their job is to diagnose and lead a problem resolution effort in their component area (e.g. storage, network, DBMS, etc.). Technical leads throughout the organization must coordinate and communicate with each other to solve issues that may lie between or beyond component areas.
Best Practices for Root-Cause Analysis
Now that all of the roles have been defined, it is important to outline some best practices the team should adhere to during the incident resolution process to make root cause analysis (RCA) easier.
- If the root cause cannot be traced back, this is one of the most common reasons why. If you have multiple teams making simultaneous changes it is difficult to assess which one fixed the problem. The incident lead must keep careful track of what, when, and in what order the team is doing to fix the system.
- During the restoration process, the first and only priority should be an incident resolution and documenting possible root causes. Most root cause analysis (RCA) work comes long after the service is restored, and with proper documentation, it can make the process a lot easier.
- Part of the system documentation should be configuration information. It is important to be able to see if there are changes that may have caused the error. As well as monitoring which changes fixed a problem. This is important to prevent possible future incidents. The fastest way to resolve issues is to revert back to the last known stable configuration. You can use Netreo’s configuration management tools to detect unplanned changes and evaluate what changed and when. It can be tempting to forward engineer a solution, but it shouldn’t be your only option because massive changes can lead to unforeseen problems.
- Establish clear lines of command and ensure enforcement. It is best for the business side not to participate in technology calls. Technical data can be overwhelming and may lead to misunderstandings.
- Work in parallel whenever reasonable and possible. This should include spawning parallel activities to work multiple reasonable solutions or backups. However, it is important to keep in mind the “one change at a time” practice when actually executing.
Having too many alerts can make root cause analysis more difficult. There are some ways you can reduce the amount of alerting noise that can obscure the root cause of an incident. A general rule of thumb is to make sure that active alerts are only for actionable items.
- If a notification doesn’t cause you to act immediately, you should not be alerted on it. For example, an alert about CPU usage or memory space. If you keep ignoring alerts, it is probable that one day an important alert will slip through the cracks. What is more helpful is receiving daily reports that give you general system metrics so you know what to deal with to prevent an incident.
- Automating reports make the daily process easier so that nothing gets missed and nothing that is not urgent causes an alert.
Leveraging operational systems
Making sure that you are using your tools in the most optimal way is key in faster incident resolution and root cause analysis.
- Integrating with notification managers can simplify on-call schedules and provide a way to distribute alerts that aren’t dependent on internal mail infrastructure.
- If you are using a ticketing or ITSM system like ServiceNow or RemedyForce, you should make sure your plan includes integrating those with your monitoring and alerting systems, as well as your incident management process.
Root cause analysis is important to resolve future incidents faster and prevent them from happening again. By implementing the aforementioned in your resolution plans, it’ll make for a more efficient and optimized organization. Netreo provides you with the keys to do that with ease with its automated reporting and integrated platform.