5 Best Practices for Problem Management

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Along with Incident Management and Change Management, Problem Management is one of the three most popular and commonly implemented ITIL processes. A report from Help Desk Institute finds that 44 percent of IT organizations have adopted Problem Management processes. That’s a good start, but better still would be if all organizations have this ITIL process implemented. The overarching goal of Problem Management is to eliminate and prevent all incidents, resulting in uninterrupted service.

What’s the relationship between Problem and Incident Management? The two processes work hand-in-hand to resolve issues. With Incident Management, however, the biggest priority is speed—success is defined as fixing an issue, fast. Sometimes, that’s good enough: The printer was out of ink, the ink was replaced, and now the printer works again. Often, though, issues recur. If a service ticket and laborious set of actions is required each time a printer’s ink runs dry, your service desk—and your customers—aren’t working efficiently. That’s where Problem Management comes in. Unlike Incident Management, Problem Management digs into issues, looking for the underlying cause and identifying long-term solutions: Why does the printer keep running out of ink? Is there a more efficient way to automate the replacement request or know when ink runs low?

Think of Incident Management as the medication that stops the sneezing, while Problem Management digs into the symptoms and discovers that you have an allergy, and figures out the best way to treat it. But, Problem Management is not exclusively reactive. That is, you don’t need symptoms to occur in order to harness this ITIL practice’s power. In addition to tackling ongoing issues, Problem Management can be used to predict and eliminate potential problems, averting them before they occur in the first place.

5 Do’s and Don’ts for Implementing Problem Management

If you’re working to implement Problem Management within your organization, be sure to avoid common pitfalls by following these “Do’s and Don’ts” to ensure an effective Problem Management process.

DO: Think from a Service-Oriented Perspective

Think beyond the service desk, and bigger than the IT department: What is the impact of errors or incidents on the business as a whole? Adjust priorities accordingly, and keep the focus of Problem Management on the business (and not just the IT department).

DON’T: Forget That Problem Management Is a Two-Pronged Approach

Problem Management takes two forms: proactive and reactive. While being reactive is always easier, don’t just wait for issues to occur. Make your goal to have zero incidents. To achieve this, you must fix errors within IT infrastructure preemptively. In service level agreements (SLAs), promises were made about the levels of service you will provide. Focus on fixing errors that will prevent you from keeping those promises, since failure to deliver will result in customer frustration.

DO: Integrate Problem Management with Knowledge Management

You probably have a “known error” database, which tracks all currently identified problems in your environment. The work you do in Problem Management to identify and resolve long-term issues should be part of your knowledge base, so that it can help other process areas and team members function effectively.

Do: Track Events and Think Holistically

To detect events, you’ll need to refine your Event Management process and its interactions with Problem Management. Along these same lines, avoid technology silos: Problems should not be seen as an opportunity to point fingers and allocate blame. Instead it’s wise to coordinate and collaborate with groups beyond the IT department to resolve issues, including application management, technical management, and DevOps. Ideally, everyone will work as a team to solve problems and minimize errors within your IT infrastructure.

Don’t: Forget about Technology Integration Needs

Effective Problem Management requires support from technology. You’ll need to integrate this process with the technology used for other ITIL processes, such as Event Management, Change Management, and Incident Management, in order to deliver the best possible service and support for your customers.

 

With a strong Problem Management process in place, your organization will have fewer instances of service disruption, and hopefully, fewer incidents overall. This means better service quality, greater operational efficiency, and last but not least, higher customer satisfaction. Given these clear benefits, you won’t want to delay implementing this powerful, effective ITIL process at your organization.

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