Problem Management Tips

Problem Management Tips - A Quick List

The ITIL and IT service management (ITSM) practice of problem management is too often misunderstood – ranging from the confusion between incidents and problems to the use of problem management techniques in the wake of a major incident. Meaning that what organizations believe to be problem management, or what they do, can differ significantly. To help, this article shares 10 problem management tips.

Problem mgmt is too often misunderstood – ranging from the confusion between incidents & problems to the use of problem management techniques in the wake of a major incident. Here, @SophieDanby shares tips to help. Share on X

10 problem management tips

  1. Differentiate between incidents and problems – this tip is vital if your organization wants to do problem management well. More detail can be found in this Vawns Murphy article “ITSM 101: Incident Management vs. Problem Management,” but here’s a quick way of differentiating: an incident is a single event or disruption, whereas a problem is the underlying root cause of one or more incidents.
  2. Have separate incident management and problem management resources – not only do the roles need different skills, but when the same person is tasked with both incident management and problem management, the latter will always take a back seat due to the urgency of incidents. This means that the latter is an activity that never gets done.
  3. Provide focused training to problem management staff – while people might be recruited to problem roles based on their personal skills, such as analytic capabilities, there’s also a need to ensure that everyone involved receives suitable training in the tools, techniques, and processes involved in the practice.
  4. Undertake proactive problem management – the problem management team actively looks for problems rather than only addressing them reactively. This commonly includes the review of the most frequent incidents, analyzing logs, and using monitoring tool data to identify potential problems. In the latter’s case, proactive problem management can resolve issues before they cause incidents.
  5. Categorize and prioritize problems – categorizing problems helps in identifying trends, allocating resources for problem management, and determining potential solutions, and not all problems have the same impact or urgency. Creating a priority matrix based on impact and urgency helps to decide which problems need immediate attention.
  6. Leverage proven Root-Cause Analysis (RCA) tools and techniques – problem management is all about identifying the root cause(s) of a problem rather than just addressing the visible symptoms. Techniques such as “the 5 Whys,” “Fault Tree Analysis,” or “Ishikawa (fishbone) diagrams” can be helpful.
  7. Maintain a Known Error Database (KEDB) – not all problems can be resolved immediately; these can be classified as “known errors.” A KEDB is a central repository of known errors and their workarounds or solutions that helps IT support provide quicker resolutions when similar incidents occur.
  8. Take a collaborative approach and integrate problem management with other ITSM processes – effective problem management requires participants from different areas when working on complex problems; they can provide insights or perspectives that are missed by a single team. While the need to integrate problem with incident management to facilitate problem identification might be obvious. There are also benefits from integrating problem management with other ITSM practices, such as change enablement, service configuration management, and release management.
  9. Monitor and report on problem management performance – use metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the efficiency and effectiveness of the practice. The metrics should align with business needs, but those commonly used include the number of open and closed problem tickets, the average time to identify root causes, and the number of recurring incidents.
  10. Continual improvement – as with any other ITSM capability, always look for ways to refine and improve the problem management practice. For example, by regularly reviewing problem metrics and KPIs to identify areas of improvement.

Industry best practices can be found in the ITIL 4 problem management practice guide. If you have problem management tips to add, please use the comments section.

Further Reading

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Sophie Danby
Sophie Danby

Sophie is a freelance ITSM marketing consultant, helping ITSM solution vendors to develop and implement effective marketing strategies.

She covers both traditional areas of marketing (such as advertising, trade shows, and events) and digital marketing (such as video, social media, and email marketing). She is also a trained editor.

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