Setting up a Team for Problem Management: a Case Study: Part I

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A global company (we shall call it XYZ), developer of a billing and customer care application for GSM services (we shall call the application BACC), had recently expanded and had more than fifty customers in Europe and Asia. They had adopted ITSM guidelines several months ago and started the process by setting up a Service Desk.
The top management and the IT Manager then went ahead with restructuring the Problem Management team so that it could carry out its function of identifying and resolving errors, and reducing or preventing them.
At that time XYZ had a large team of analysts and software developers that took care of all tasks related to fixing software errors and developing changes according to change requests.
In order to embrace ITSM guidelines, it was clear that the team would have to be restructured to address Problem Management separately. In this series of case studies we will look at the experience, practices and key lessons encountered by the team to achieve the following:

  • Setting up a Problem Management team
  • Identifying KPI’s for the team and setting goals
  • Setting up metrics for team performance monitoring
  • Achieving customer SLA’s
  • Ensuring Continual Improvement in Problem Management.

Description of the actual processes followed in Problem Management, any tools used, and the process of interaction between different functions or teams are not a part of this series of case studies.

Setting Up the Problem Management Team

It was kept in mind that the Problem Management team had the following major functions:

  • Root Cause Analysis of errors which were reported by users of BACC
  • Correction of errors
  • Assisting with Work-Around solutions
  • Reduction and prevention of errors
  • Populating and maintaining the database of Known Errors.
  • Raising Change Requests when necessary.

The IT Manager analyzed the volume of work so far and studied the structure of similar teams with competitor companies using his contacts. He worked out that the initial Problem Management Team should consist of the following people:

  • Team Leader-Problem Management: The Team Leader would be responsible for the performance of the Problem Management team. He would be responsible for assigning work to team members and monitoring all work to completion.
  • Senior Functional Analyst: This person would have more than 5 years of experience in XYZ, and be familiar with all the functions of the modules of the application. He would also have the ownership of the database of Known Errors to ensure that it was being updated and maintained regularly and appropriately shared with other teams, especially those involved in incident management.
  • Analysts: Five systems analysts/developers each having knowledge and experience of working with three or more modules of the BACC application in software design and development.
  • Software Developers: Two software developers with experience in developing changes to different modules of the application had the responsibility of raising Change Requests and assisting with Work-Around solutions as necessary.

The Problem Management team was thus set up as a nine-member team. In the next part we will look at how the KPI’s were identified and goals set up for the team in an interactive way.

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About Rumee Roy (Kolkata, India)

Rumee Roy (Kolkata, India)
A management professional with experience of more than twenty years in general management, quality management, customer support, software development and information technology consultancy, focusing on business requirements and applications for industries such as telecom, finance, and manufacturing. Presently, Head of New Vista Services, offering management consulting services, training in soft skills, and IT infrastructure services.

2 comments

  1. Hi Rumee,

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    I noticed that you listed software developers as part of the problem management team. How is the interaction between de devs in the PM team and the devs in the regular team?

    Thanks.

    • Rumee Roy (Kolkata, India)

      Hi Airan,

      Thanks for reading and commenting on the article. I shall do my best to explain, but do let me know if you need further clarification.

      Software developers in the PM team had the responsibility to identify if software errors were the cause of the problem.There was a formal communication channel for such findings to be intimated to the development team for further follow-up (e.g. why the QA had not found the error, what else needs to be done etc.) It was the practice to assign software developers to the PM team on a rotation basis, i.e. software developers were taken out of the development team for a period of 3 to 6 months and assigned to the PM team. This gave good results as the developers were able to hone their analytical skills in the PM team while being assured of their return to the development team, which is usually preferable to a hard-core developer. Thus the developers in the PM team were knowledgeable about the software from the design/coding angle, and had access to relevant material. They could communicate easily with the main development team as there was a formal process for this to happen.

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