Plymouth City Council’s innovative approach to effective problem management

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Problem Management blog 7_resizedAs the final entry in my series on problem management, I’d like to share a success story from a Hornbill client, Plymouth City Council, which can reasonably claim to be a pioneer in this area. The Council has overcome the challenges we’ve been discussing and made proactive problem management an integral part of its way of working.

The challenge facing the Council’s ICT department is to support over 250 applications and service the individual requirements of more than 4,000 users in a business environment of constant change. The Council decided to adopt the ITIL framework and implement Hornbill’s Supportworks ITSM Enterprise solution to facilitate continual service improvement while maintaining the same level of resourcing.

As its incident management process matured, the Council began to consider ways to reduce the number of incidents and deliver a higher quality of service to end-users. The occasional major incident, such as a power cut to the data center or the loss of the email system, could cause significant disruption. Also, its front-line support analysts and incident management trend reporting were identifying a lot of repeat incident patterns, often arising from changes.

Reducing the cost to the business of service unavailability was a key objective in the Council’s decision to focus attention on problem management – the process of identifying and addressing the root causes of incidents to minimize business impact and prevent recurrences. Supportworks reported that 70 percent of problems arose from poorly implemented changes.

The business value of a dedicated problem management resource became apparent. A Problem and Change Manager was appointed and now leads a dedicated Transition Team. Having worked at the Council for over 10 years, progressing through roles in first-, second- and third-line support, as well as managing the service desk, he combines strong technical problem-solving skills with insight into what constitutes quality service from a customer’s perspective.

A prioritization matrix is used each week to identify the incidents with the greatest potential to affect business critical services, and determine the urgency with which they must be resolved. The matrix also helps target efforts to uncover underlying problems, some of which are recorded as known errors in the knowledge base. Whenever a new incident is logged, service desk analysts can see if a related known error exists, which means they can provide a solution immediately. Top 10 problems are highly visible to all staff within ICT at all times.

The Council’s main innovation has been to ensure all changes, including project changes, are submitted to the Transition Team before implementation. This makes the service more proactive about preventing change-related problems and minimizing the risk of service interruptions in the live environment. Thanks to effective problem management, the Council is now noticing a downward trend in the volume of problems and failed changes. Even more importantly, having solutions to hand means it can now recover in a fraction of the time from what would previously have been a major incident.

This case study is also available to view here.

This concludes our series on the importance of Problem Management. If you’d like to know more you can also download our Smart Guide to discover what every Service Desk Manager must know about Problem Management.

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