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The Problem Management Process – Advice from ITIL Experts

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problem-solution-successIndustry experts are talking shop and swapping thoughts on Problem Management. Knowing that each business is different, they avoid nailing down arduous processes. Instead do their best to define principals of a healthy Problem Management process.

Definition of Problem Management

The issues behind many Problem Management efforts may start with a faulty definition of what Problem Management is. Barclay Rae, Stuart Rance, among others, found it necessary to lay this conceptual groundwork before going any further. Problems are not major, escalated or outstanding incidents. A problem is the underlying cause accounting for multiple incidents.

However, immediately focusing on finding the root cause might not always be the right option according to Rance. Sometimes, a work-around is the best real-time solution so as not to leave the Service Desk out to dry. Prioritizing between the two comes down to a customer-centric perspective. Understanding their pain points and where the service adds value. A Problem Management process is only as effective as the value it adds to the business.

Problem Management Priorities, Ownership, and Communication

Prioritizing problems is an important aspect of the Problem Management process. Barclay Rae suggests creating a Top 10 problems list up front, factoring in the customer-centric perspective, more or less agreed upon by the department as a whole. It’s also important to implement strong Problem Management software that enables your team to prioritize problems appropriately and automate processes in a manner that both reduces IT burden and better serves end users. 

Ultimately, no matter what kind of prioritizing and processing implemented, the success is dependent on a person knowing their role fully and being accountable for it. Allowing room for personal ownership will drive the Problem Management endeavor. Putting people in the right roles to succeed is integral to an efficient Problem Management.

However, accountability as principal can only function if the communication is there. Communication will keep individuals on the same page as the Problem Management priorities and goals change. Visibility of problem, too, will opens up the problem to a wider audience, sometimes speeding up the resolution. Communication between clear personal responsibilities creates an efficient effort, sealing up the possible cracks.

Barclay Rae clarifies the role of Problem Management is his title, “Problem Management—Not Problem Administration.” That’s why he resists the impulse to starkly define the minutia of structuring processes. Instead, he says a “get to it” attitude that intentionally triggers action is the best approach to Problem Management.