Problem Management is the process responsible for managing the lifecycle of all problems. It spans both the ITIL Service Operation and the ITIL Continual Service Improvement stages of the ITIL service lifecycle. Problems can cause decreases in service delivery quality to the customers. Therefore, problems occurring in an IT service provider must be managed properly, and a fix must be provided at the earliest time. The problem management process is the process that is followed to deal with issues so that they cause minimum disruption and customer dissatisfaction. It is taught in ITIL online courses. Let’s have a look at the objectives and basic principles. You can also assess your knowledge about ITIL problem management with the help of an ITIL Foundation practice exam.
Objectives of the problem management process
The first goal is preventing problems from occurring and also preventing the root causes of the incidents. The primary purpose of an IT service provider is providing the services to the customers and meeting the agreed service levels. Incidents and problems can cause failures in service delivery or service degradation. Therefore, the problem management process aims to prevent problems mainly. The problem management process also finds the root causes of incidents which are causing problems and seeks to find a persistent solution for these causes.
The second objective is reducing recurring incidents. If a fixed problem or incident is recurring, then the root cause of the problem has not been found yet. Recurring incidents cause customer dissatisfaction faster than a new issue. Let’s consider that a customer reported a problem that he cannot transfer his money to a particular account. After the IT service provider received and fixed the problem, the same user faces the same problem in his next transfer attempt. This will make him much more unhappy compared to being confronted with a completely new problem. Therefore, recurring incidents must be eliminated.
A third and the last objective of the problem management process is reducing impacts of incidents which cannot be prevented. Although problems are fixed, there can be problems which cannot be avoided before it happens. In this case, the IT service provider has to aim to reduce the impacts of this unpreventable problem. In this way, the dissatisfaction of the customer will be minimized.
Basic principles of the problem management process
Many problems are unique and require individual handling. There might be several incidents which are caused by the same problem in an IT Service provider but, many problems are unique and need particular attention. For instance, a login problem, late service response or even failure in a service request can be all caused by the failure of an application server in the IT service provider. This is a unique problem, and once this is fixed, it is expected to overcome the associated incidents with this problem.
Incidents with underlying problems
It is also conceivable that some incidents may recur due to underlying problems. For instance, a permanent solution entails excessive costs, and that’s why the decision is made to “live” with the problem is made. Let’s give an example of this scenario. Assume that a service uses a database to query user details. And if this database is down, service will fail as well. During planning, costs of constructing an active-active database and active-standby database structures have been evaluated. It has been concluded that creating an active-active database system and its maintenance will cost even more than the expected revenue from the service. Therefore, an active-standby database system has been implemented. However, in the case of a failure in this active-standby database system, it will take five minutes to start the standby database and take over the service requests. And during this time period, all service requests will fail. However, if it were an active-active database system, there won’t be a failure if one of the databases will fail.
A known error record ensures a quicker diagnosis, “problem models” can be helpful for the handling of problems. A known error record will have the patterns and steps causing the known error in an IT service provider. Therefore, while investigating a known error, these measures and patterns will guide the responsible person who will solve the problem, and this is part of problem management.
In problem management, problem models, like incident models, will make it easier to deal with problems in an IT Service Provider because these models describe how to reach a problem, which tools to use or how escalation to another party must be done, etc.
Reactive versus Proactive Problem Management
There are two types of approaches in problem management fundamentally. The first one is reactive problem management and is generally conducted in service operation. Reactive problem management approaches to the problem whenever it happens in the IT service provider and aims to fix the problem as soon as possible before the problem impacts the service delivery further.
The second approach in problem management is proactive problem management and initiated in service operation and furthered in the continual service improvement stage. Proactive problem management approaches to the problems before they can occur and it aims to prevent any future problems from occurring and impacting service delivery to the customers.
Problem management is a useful process in the Service Operation stage of the ITIL lifecycle. It helps IT service owners and IT service managers to effectively deal with problems that may have a substantial impact on the business. Following problem management process protocol is a systematic way of managing problems that can occur in an IT service provider.
Review by: Gregory Barnett