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Definition

triage

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Triage is the procedure of assigning levels of priority to tasks or individuals to determine the most effective order in which to deal with them.

Triage originated in a military medical context and is now widely used in information technology (IT) and business environments, where it is an integral element of business process management (BPM).

Examples of triage in IT:

An IT operations department constantly triages issues to decide which problems are most urgent. Top-priority issues are dealt with as they arise and medium-priority issues attended to when there are no top-priority issues remaining. If there are no medium-priority issues outstanding, low-priority issues may be addressed. However, that time might never come and the least urgent problems might never be dealt with unless they are reassessed at a higher priority level.

In email triage, messages might be designated an urgent status for immediate response, others may be deferred for dealing with at a specified future time and others simply deleted. Email triage applications and mobile apps are available to facilitate the process.

In agile software development (ASD), requirements are typically triaged at the start of each iteration. Because an iteration is a short development cycle, it's crucial to deal with high-priority requirements quickly to ensure that they are satisfied in time.

In software testing, bug triage identifies the code errors that need immediate attention and those that can wait. Bugs assessed for low-priority might be tolerated indefinitely.

The first usage of the term in this sense was in the 1930s, where it referred to prioritizing the treatment of soldiers wounded in battle. Triage is still used in healthcare to determine the order of treatment for patients. Triage comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate out or to sort.

This was last updated in March 2016

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