Problem management is your way out of firefighting mode!

Historically IT is mostly reactive, getting information about something that is happening right now and making a best effort to solve this. Frankly, we got very good doing this but we were still not doing the best job we could since things already got bad before we could start our hero effort. We were, and to some extent still are, firefighters. We can all agree that this is nor the position we want or the overall approach that is desired by the business. We will never be able to completely eliminate the ad hoc management of the unforeseen, this is the nature of our task, but we can make it a fraction of our daily work.

Problem management will help you reduce your firefighting to a fraction of what it is today. I will tell you why and how.

Doing our daily management of the user support normally involves solving a large amount of incidents and user requests. We can easily get more effective with incident- and request models, using knowledge management and other smart things to do. However, the smart thing to do is to start eliminating the reoccurrence of incidents, to cure the illness that causes the incidents, the so-called root cause of incidents – the actual problem.

As we all know Incident management is all about being quick, getting the service restored as fast as possible, most of the time without paying attention about why this even happened in the first place, we could compare this process to the field medic, only patching up people to get them going again. This has to be how Incident management work, otherwise we will slow it down. However this is not how we as an IT service provider should work, only being reactive, which is why we absolutely should work with Problem management as well.

Problem management is entirely focused on finding out why incidents occurs, the actual root cause, and eliminating it, curing it. This process is the real doctor for the IT service provider.

Eliminating the root cause of incident, treating the actual illness, will effectively eliminate recurrent incidents, which is a significant part of the total, will do several things. The first and most obvious advantage is of course reducing the total number of incidents. However, there are several other advantages:

  • Greatly improving the quality of our IS/IT services, thus making them more robust and less error prone.
  • Improve the IT service provider reputation and customer satisfaction based on being more responsive and proactive to their problems.
  • Getting more time to be proactive by freeing up resources from purely reactive activities thus making us even more proactive – happy day!
  • Reducing your resolution time (MTTR) by providing Known Errors and their best possible workaround.
  • Clearly demonstrating great IT service provider maturity by showing the chain from incident to implemented change request (through release management).
  • Evolve from being a bug fixing developers group to become the IT service provider heroes that makes IT proactive and all about quality. Yes, this is true!

Besides these main motivators for Problem management, there are some important considerations to create and maintain a process A-game for this great process. This post would become a short novel if I go into the real value area, the actual problem solving so this will be saved to a later post, however I can already tell you now, you should look into Kepner-Tregoe. There are a few things that will help you get ahead in your problem management process implementation or improvement.

  1. You must always support the Incident management process and the service desk. This is best done using Known Errors and workarounds. When you find the root cause, make sure to verify that there is a work around and if so verify it is the best one. If there is not any, create it. Also, create a Known Error and keep it updated until it is finally solved. This will do wonders for the Incident resolution.
  2. Stay good friends with the Change management process, trying to pass all problem resolutions, as emergency changes are not going to do that for you. There is normally a change calendar and release schedule that will help you calibrate your efforts on the problems that you can resolve. Do not try to heal the whole world at the same time, plan ahead and adapt to your reality.
  3. Always try to be best friends with the Service desk, do not forget, those are the same people that help you discover things, see the trends and talking to the end users. They will provide valuable input to you. I already told you how you can do you part of the job, with workarounds and known errors.
  4. Find time and prioritize proactive problem management! Look at trends, have big ears and stay close to those that knows the end user community. For each problem you can raise, based on incidents that has not happened yet you are the hero of the IT service provider.

Therefore, whether you already are using a problem management process or not, these are some of the key points I think really matters to get the process really flying. So, what you waiting for?


6 thoughts on “Problem management is your way out of firefighting mode!

  1. Great article and something I’ll be using with my Setvice Delivery team to accelerate the Lroblem Management function


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