“Escalation” is often mentioned when dealing with Incident and Problem Management processes. The ITIL Incident Management process talks about Hierarchical and Functional escalations where higher management attention and additional resources or expertise (second or third level support)  to resolve incidents or problems are activated respectively.  It may be worthwhile to define a separate escalation management procedure to manage such  escalations, including criteria for triggering such escalations. The majority of escalations will be initiated from Incident Management and there are a number of triggers, both time and event based.

These criteria would be very much organization dependent. Examples of reasons to initiate an escalation could include the following:

A prolonged service outage that exceeds or threaten to exceed the Service Level Requirements or agreed time frame
Frequently recurring or multiple related High Priority incidents where Priority is related to business impact and urgency. In situations like this, the customer’s confidence in the Service Provider would have been greatly impacted, not to mention the impact to the Customer’s business. Hence, an escalation is called for to bring about management attention and also expertise to find the root cause and prevent future incidents.
Management of a major Incident as part of a Major Incident Procedure as defined in ITIL Incident Management. An incident defined as a major incident would likely be an escalated incident as well requiring special management attention, expertise and resources to manage the incident.
Data loss or risk of potential data loss. Any loss of data has a significant impact on the Customer. For example, a disk storage system has malfunctioned, leading to a service outage. The customer’s last backup was done yesterday and there is potential data loss if the right solution is not found. In situations like this, an escalation may be called for to ensure that the right steps are done to repair the disk storage system and recover the data or ensure no data is lost.
Risk of actual or potential damage to customer or provider’s reputation
Safety issue identified or reported by customer
Customer’s crisis situation or customer’s anxiety is high and customer request for escalation
Common sense

The last one is a good one, as not all situations can be well foreseen in advance!

Jeffrey Lee is a IT Service Management (ITSM) consultant and ITIL trainer.

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