Incident and Problem Management – 2 Roles with 1 Person

I was recently asked what would be the easiest way to start up the Problem Management process using existing staff which was allocated for Incident Management. The direction from their Senior Leadership was “that these things are really the same anyways”. While there is a degree of truth to that perspective, this may be a perception that you are faced with more often than not, and may only be altered though results from your processes in action.

“Our Incident Manager(s) are really busy putting out the fires…”

It seems like the chicken and the egg scenario, but in reality as you are able to permanently resolve some of these recurring issues and help to stabilize your environments though Problem Management you will continue to have all these fires to put out. Don’t misunderstand; the first while is going to be hard work as you will be doing new activities while still reacting to all the incidents which are coming in.

How do I start?

Start things simple. Since your resource(s) are limited, keeping the scope of activities small is imperative. The one thing that you will need to make sure that there is clarity on where Incident ends and Problem begins. Since the goal of Incident Management is to restore service as quickly as possible this is where you will likely start. Once teams have resolved the issue we will be looking to determine what the root cause of the issue was. This is where wearing two hats can have some challenges. For example, while an issue may have been corrected through a restart of services, what we really want to figure out why the services required a restart in the first place.

Who can help?

Fortunately the Incident Manager has already built relationships with the support teams who work to resolve these issues, even better is the fact that what Problem Management is attempting to do is to lighten the reactive workload for them as well. So selling the process to them shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

What’s next?

While these different yet symbiotic processes are working to improve the customer experience, you may need to prove the value of Problem management before you will get real buy in on building it out with additional staff (see Avoiding the wheel of solutions – Implementing Problem Management).


Until you are able to get to a place where you are able to separate the roles you might need to schedule time to be the Problem Manager. The key to remember is to keep it simple to start and target the top issues that you face each week. Reviewing the Incidents on a weekly basis with stakeholders often affords you the ability to step away from Incident Management and get a different perspective on issues which are impacting the business each week.

3 thoughts on “Incident and Problem Management – 2 Roles with 1 Person”

  1. Hello there!
    So as the Problem Management process owner at my company I would like to introduce the difference in Incident and Problem processes as"Incident being the process to restore service" v/s "problem is for further investigation and analysis" –> What is your take on calling the problem management process –> Problem Investigation Process?

  2. I have had several different titles where this is concerned and from an IT or Business stakeholders perspective the difference was minimal.

    Understandably the biggest challenge is to get stakeholders to “get” problem management. In some cases this may be easy and in others – not so much. The way that you want to “market” the idea either to the business to even your IT department is what’s in it for them.

    From an IT perspective while the benefits may be obvious, you may need to illustrate them to the IT Managers in a simple way. Usually the bottom line – less incidents equals less repeated work, either during or after hours. This equals happier staff, and less on call pay (where appropriate)

    From your business perspective the dividends are paid when the customers get better service. If you can align Problem management activities to Business goals – you are well on the way to speaking the same language

    Hope this helps, if there are any other questions feel free to let me know

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