In my blog post from 21st November 2012, I discussed the challenges faced by IT departments in terms of making Problem Management a success.
Today, I would like to provide some tips for successful implementation of Problem Management which can be broadly applied by any IT department.
A Problem is defined as “the underlying cause of one or more incidents”.
Problem Management is about eliminating those causes and thereby preventing incidents from happening.
Build a Business Case – Use ROI based upon past repeat incidents or a major outage you don’t want to repeat.
Get management commitment and sponsorship – Have your sponsor explain to the stakeholders WHY the process is being implemented.
Manage the implementation of the process as a proper project – Assign a project leader, determine goals, develop a plan and so on.
Make Problem Management a priority – Include it on the management scorecard.
Appoint a strong Problem Manager – Clearly-define his/her responsibilities.
Select the right people -Your Problem Management team members will need to be tenacious and have good skills in Problem Solving, Analysis and Communication. They need to be technically-aware but don’t necessarily need to be technical specialists. This is because they will often be calling-upon and coordinating Subject Matter Experts as a part of a virtual Problem Management team.
Have an effective process -Develop and document an effective process that everyone understands, and put in place appropriate process metrics. Create some structure around the Root Cause Analysis activity.
Avoid theProblem Management team being dragged into Incident Management activities.
Establish Incident Categories – Take some time to develop an effective incident categorisation scheme that is easy for Incident management to use, yet gives Problem Management the level of information needed for Trend Analysis.
Create a Knowledge Repository – Here your Problem Management team can record details of Problems and related workarounds which the Incident Management Team can then reference.
Keep it simple to begin with – Start with a limited scope initially and look for some ‘Quick Wins’ i.e. identify one or two high-visibility Problems that have had a high business impact and address those. Monitor their progress and use these to recognise and demonstrate the success and value of Problem Management. Consider beginning with PROACTIVE Problem Management – as this helps keeps a much-clearer differentiation between the work of the Problem Management team and the fire-fighting activities of Incident Management.
Be patient -Expect a period where incident volumes continue to rise (or don’t fall) in spite of the resources put into Problem Management. It needs time to get traction, but soon a point will be reached where the total resource required (for Incident and Problem Management combined) will drop below the old Incident Management levels.
The ITSM, ITIL® & ISO/IEC 20000 Implementation Toolkit provides guidance on Problem Management and includes pre-designed templates of Problem Management processes, procedures and records. A free demo version is available from www.itgovernance.co.uk/download/iso20000.htm.
Finally, when you get Problem Management right, you can gain tangible business and operational benefits:
- A better quality of customer service with less downtime and fewer disruptions
- Reduced impact of incidents through more-timely resolution
- Improved end-user satisfaction
- A more cost-effective service
- Fewer Incidents to handle
- Greater percentage of incidents resolved by the first point of contact
- Enhanced ability to meet Service Level commitments
- Greater capacity to absorb the support of additional services or carry-out other tasks
- Less frustration from handling recurring incidents
- Enhanced customer-perception of IT