People like to put dollar values on outages. There’s no true answer to the question of how much an outage costs an organization. If your company is transaction-based, you can estimate how many transactions were missed, but there are all sorts of other factors that you could decide to model. (Are those transactions really lost, or will people come back later? Does it impact the public’s perception of the organization? What if your business isn’t transaction-based?). If you ask John Allspaw, he’ll tell you that incidents can provide benefits to an organization in addition to costs.
Putting all of that aside for now, one question around incident cost that I think is interesting is the perceived cost within the organization. How costly does leadership feel that this incident was?
Here’s a proposed approach to try and capture this. After an incident, go to different people in leadership, and ask them the following question:
Imagine I could wave a magic wand, and it would alter history to undo the incident: it will be as if the incident never happened. However, I’ll only do this if you pay me money out of your org’s budget. How much are you willing to pay me to wave the wand?
I think this would be an interesting way to convey to the organization how leadership perceived the incident.