Wikipedia defines IT problem management as an IT service management discipline designed to “minimize the adverse impact of incidents and problems on business that are caused by errors within the IT infrastructure, and to prevent recurrence of incidents related to these errors”. At the core of IT problem management, which is covered within ITIL’s volumes for Service Support, is the need to efficiently determine and correct the underlying cause or causes of repetitive incidents within the technology environment before they drain productivity and hinder profitability.
IT problem management processes are closely aligned with IT incident management tasks, and encompass many activities aimed at problem discovery, including trend analysis, to detect patterns in historical data about incidents or incident details, and/or the use of diagrams such as cause and effect, tree, or fishbone charts. Once problems have been identified, formal procedures for recording, categorization, investigation, diagnosis, escalation (when needed), and resolution should be set and followed.
Additionally, workarounds and solutions must be documented and shared with other members of the IT support team, and end users when appropriate. Often times, IT problem management will require significant structural or architectural changes to address major issues. This also closely links IT problem management procedures to change management processes.
Well planned and executed IT problem management policies can result in dramatic benefits, including:
- Minimized disruptions in IT service
- More consistent service delivery levels
- An improved ability to adhere to service performance requirements, such as those defined within service level agreements (SLAs)
- Enhanced productivity of IT staff members
- An increased ability to satisfy the technology needs of end users
Many confuse IT problem management with incident management. It is important to remember the difference. IT incident management addresses the handling of individual issues that have already occurred, where the goal is to resolve the incident and restore service to normal as soon as possible. With problem management, the focus is on correcting known problems to proactively understand the root cause and prevent future incidents from taking place.