How You Can Improve Problem Management

The value realization that problem management brings to the table in the reduction or elimination of incidents is something that, unfortunately, is left as an afterthought in many cases. As I mentioned in previous articles, incident management is driven by the “hero” mentality, where change management is seen as a function of audit and compliance. For right or for wrong these may be the realities, and teams may see more of a requirement to perform the activities rather than performing them with a proactive mindset. Where these processes seem to be more table stakes, problem management may not be practiced with the same amounts of consistency. This stance needs to be reworked.

Just because you are not a problem manager doesn’t mean that you can’t help improving the process.

The difference here is that, while problem management might be something that is not formally practiced in a “day to day” role capacity, the benefits it can provide can be extracted and applied in small doses. When you drop a pebble into a pond of water, the pebble creates ripples that reach all edges of the pond. Much like the actions of problem management can pay long term dividends.

Here’s a sample:

Service Desk

When we speak of problem management, we are generally speaking of incident reduction and elimination. While the reduction of incidents has a clear benefit for the service desk, think about the benefits from performing some levels of trend analysis on requests we see as well. In some cases, the root cause analysis for why we get these requests may point us in a direction to streamline how some requests are handled. An example of this may be that we receive requests for a particular application that could be eliminated if we had a knowledge record that would allow the business to address something on their end. This ability of self-service may free up resources in the service desk to perform other (in some cases more important) activities. Don’t forget though—if you are looking to replace activity in this way, make sure that you can report on the use of these self-service knowledge articles.

IT Operations Manager

Having our technical specialists in a position to review the top issues and understand what level of work is associated with a permanent resolution will enable us to have the appropriate discussions with business stakeholders on whether we proceed with a fix or not. With metrics like the number of incidents, durations, and level of impact, we may be better positioned to discuss with the business the costs associated in a potential fix, as well as the cost of doing nothing from an incident outage perspective. We want to be partners with the business, so remember IT shouldn’t be deciding this single-handedly.

IT Application Manager

Much like the operations team, we want to be able to quantify the issues we are seeing from an application level so that we can evaluate how best to utilize our resources. Gathering information that pertains to the issues we are seeing may not shed light on root cause, but it should allow us to ask better questions to get to the bottom of things. Engaging with our business on this will go a long way to better identifying what’s really happening.

IT Mindset

Getting all teams in IT together to discuss the top challenges that they are facing will further allow us to understand the big picture regarding service delivery. Having multiple IT stakeholders will allow you to cover off all angles of IT support: from the initial escalations at the service desk, through to the application and operational hurdles that need to be jumped over.

Everyone plays a part in problem management activities, whether the process is formal or not. From understanding the volumes of incident and requests, to getting a better sense of overall challenges that our business and ultimately, we face to providing exceptional service.



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