Monday, October 19, 2009

Problem Management

In most IT organizations, a systematic process to handle problems does not exist. Rather, the functions of a problem management process are carried out by Project or Program Managers or some sort of committee or advisory board. A well thought out problem management process is only rarely setup unless the organization is under some sort of ISO 20000 certification program.

Problems are underlying reasons for incidents. Incidents being disruptions to expected levels of service experienced by customers. Problem management aims at resolving incidents and problems caused by end-user errors or IT infrastructure issues and preventing recurrence of such incidents. Therefore, there are two aspects to problem management: a proactive aspect and a reactive aspect. In the proactive aspect, the services are monitored for possible problems and steps are taken before thresholds are breached. In the reactive aspect, a problem has already occurred and steps must be taken to resolve it. Problem management then works with other processes to resolve the problem in question.

The major sub processes within Problem Management are:

  • Problem and Error Control: To constantly monitor outstanding Problems with regards to their processing status, so that where necessary, corrective measures may be introduced.

  • Problem Identification and Categorization: To record and prioritize the Problem with appropriate diligence, in order to facilitate a swift and effective resolution.
    Problem Diagnosis and Resolution: To identify the underlying root cause of a Problem and initiate the most appropriate and economical Problem solution. If possible, a temporary Workaround is supplied.

  • Problem Closure and Evaluation: To ensure that - after a successful Problem solution - the record and prioritize the Problem contains a full historical description, and that related Known Error Records are updated.

  • Major Problem Review: To review the resolution of a Problem in order to prevent recurrence and learn any lessons for the future. Furthermore it is to be verified whether the Problems marked as closed have actually been eliminated.

  • Problem Management Reporting: To ensure that the other Service Management processes as well as IT Management are informed of outstanding Problems, their processing-status and existing Workarounds.

The advantages of Problem Management are:

  • Reduction in service disruptions to the customer

  • Proactive identification and prevention of failures which leads to fewer defects experienced by the customer

  • Quicker resolution of an existing problem

  • Better communication and information management regarding problems and known errors

  • Better problem analysis and understanding of trends that could be utilized in a proactive manner

Therefore, it is clear that Problem Management provides significant benefits to an organization and should be implemented with the seriousness that it deserves.


  1. I did ITIL implementation for a large auto major and was a Problem management Lead. I firmly believe without Problem Management any Incident Management team is like a team without captain.

    I differ with you that Problem Management will help you a quick resolution which is not correct in practical situation as they has to find root cause and impact analysis

  2. Hello Subhajit,

    Thank you for your comment.
    I feel that with the proper implementation of Problem Management, the resolution of problems will be undertaken faster as a well defined process exists. Without Problem Management, due to haphazard steps being taken the resolution of problems will be slower.

    Thanks and regards.


  3. A great way to make ensure that you reach a quick resolution when dealing with IT solutions can be found in IT Manager III: Unseen Forces.