As I’ve argued in earlier blog posts in this series, ITIL provides a strong foundation for establishing problem management, particularly if it’s proactive. But, clear though the benefits are, problem management remains one of the most underused ITIL processes.
Many organizations say they would tackle problem management if they had the time, but I believe other challenges are often standing in the way. For example:
• Many organizations are used to implementing workarounds instead of looking for a permanent fix.
• Problem management requires a different approach, together with a mix of skills that are often lacking.
• Few IT organizations are able to attach a cost to problems, which means they can’t be truly proactive about problem management.
• Organizations are often unwilling to allocate the required resources (including a dedicated problem manager), time and tools.
To tackle these challenges, IT groups need to truly understand how problem management can reduce costs and contribute to business value. To do this, I believe they need to take three steps:
Understand the value of problem management. The objective is to prevent incidents from recurring, and minimize the impact when prevention is not possible. Incident management may be doing a great job providing fixes to end-users, but making time for problem management is the better route to customer satisfaction. For example, suppose laptop users get blocked from connecting to the internet because of a docked/undocked profile. Each incident may be quick to solve, but if it happens several times a month to a thousand people you’ve lost a lot of productivity.
Understand the cost of problems. Attributing costs will help in determining priorities for problem management. Although it is relatively easy to determine IT costs, calculating other costs, such as lost productivity/opportunities, can be more challenging. Your finance or accounts team should be able to help. Once the business is aware of the relative costs of problems, it becomes easy to decide which to tackle first. That will allow you to be truly proactive – and also to establish a case for appointing a dedicated problem manager if you haven’t already done so.
Understand the customer’s perspective. When you understand the user perspective, it becomes easier to identify the impact of problems on the business. And with dialogue between service desk and business flowing freely, you’re likely to identify opportunities for service improvements that may never have been requested at all. For example, your marketing team might be experiencing a high bounce-back rate on email campaigns, which could be reduced by improving the quality and validation of data.
For help in viewing these issues from the customer perspective, take a look at the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (USMBOK) . This companion piece to ITIL approaches problem management from the perspective of the customer, using language and principles the business will immediately identify with.
Watch out for my next blog post, which will share our top 10 tips for implementing 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.