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The Right Approach to Problem Management

Problem Management is one of the most important ITSM processes, mainly contributing to higher efficiency of the operations team, lower cost, and a more reliable system. But do you know what is the right approach for this quite complex process?

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Most of the time, for startup applications and services, the one being given focus with of the management is Incident Management- mainly because it addresses incidents by giving a quick patch onto it- thus reducing or eliminating business impact. Once a “workaround” is given, most of the services stop there. But take note that the underlying rootcause is not addressed at all-resulting to recurring issues which drives more support hours, thus higher cost.

Problem Management Key #1: ensure basic Problem Management

So how do we setup a Problem Management system? First, we need to ensure that a basic Problem Management is in place for a new service that you have, after it was moved to production. Just imagine having an application in its first month- then suddenly, you encounter a complex, recurring issue that your Incident Management resources cannot address. They told you that they need an expert developer of greater expertise to help them- but then- you weren’t able to staff your Problem Management team. So in the end of the day, you have a team who lacks technical skills, and a business who shouts for help. It will end up with a lower Quality of Service, and User Satisfaction, which is not a good start for your business. Thus, always ensure that you will include a partial or even 1 full time resource for your Problem Management for your service.

Problem Management Key #2: criteria fitted for your business

Second, you need to have a Problem Management criteria that is taylor fitted for your business. This means that you have interviewed or asked your users on their critical jobs that is related to your application. You should be able to ask their inputs on the critical processes or modules that your service offers, and mark issues related with that as either critical, high, or low. This will help you define how you will prioritize your problems, and ensure that your prioritization is of the same wavelength with your users.

Problem Management Key #3: set the right expectations to your users

Third, you always need to set the right expectations to your users. If you have a Problem Management SLA ( which is very rare with most services, but is very desirable), then inform them about it. This will avoid unnecessary  escalations in your service which can save your precious time. Your Problem resolution targets, will highly depend on your ongoing cost- stricter targets directly means higher cost since you need more people, and more expert resources for your team. So be careful on oversetting of your targets, since it might eat up all of your budget and pull your business down. You need to strike the right balance between providing the right amount of urgency, and at the same time, having a reasonable cost.

Problem Management Key #4: regularly revisit your Problem Management process

Fourth and last item is that you need to continuously and regularly revisit your Problem Management process. You need to check if you are on track with your targets for the whole year. Setting a problem management glidepath in place can greatly help you have a realistic set of expectations including forecasted opened and closed problem records. You also need to check, if your team is performing great. Are they meeting the targets? Does their skillset and level of expertise meet your expectations and the problem targets?

These are the 4 major items that you need to remember to have the right approach for your Problem Management. Whether its a software, web application, or an interface- this is generally applicable. Always remember that by having this process, you are eliminating the rootcauses of your wicked problems, thus making you and your business happy.