Problem management is one among many of the ITIL® service management practices. It focuses on understanding why an incident occurred and preventing (or more quickly resolving) similar incidents in the future.
If you can believe it, there are more than 100 million tickets created every day, and this just counts the ones from our OTRS customers! Most of these are classified as incidents or service requests. I have met many service organizations which have successfully implemented incident and service request processes, but rarely are they doing problem management and change management.
Benefits of implementing the problem management practice
Your end customer typically does not differentiate between an incident and a problem, so it is on you to identify those: This takes more time and resources. So why should you invest more time and resources if the incident is already solved? There are several reasons:
- You speed up resolution time because your team is well prepared to handle future incidents.
- Customer satisfaction increases and your business remains more stable because incidents don’t linger for long periods of time.
- Consumer confidence is boosted because you can be relied upon not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
- Service and product quality increases. Instead of constantly applying workarounds, you can fix what’s wrong so that it doesn’t continue to happen in the future.
Service and product quality increases. Instead of constantly applying workarounds, you can fix what's wrong so that it doesn't continue to happen in the future
Implementing problem management
Problem management workflows are repeatable and generally include the following activities:
Step one: Problem detection – an incident is reported. This can either be from a person or via a monitoring tool. Sometimes it is clear that something is a problem, such as when multiple users are complaining that a service is unavailable. In many other cases, proper service management reporting is required to identify that there is a problem: Multiple incidents for the same service or category in a specific timeframe is an identifier for such a problem.
Step two: Problem logging, categorization and prioritization – the details about the incident, including how it was reported; what is happening; or how it is categorized and prioritized, are documented. It’s useful for teams to spend time in advance to define which categories will be used and how incidents are to be prioritized.
Step three: Problem analysis – your team investigates the root cause of the incident(s), figuring out why the incident happened in the first place. Let’s look at a few typical incidents and the possible problems that could be responsible for them:
- #1: Incident = Mail format is broken, since the last update. Solution = Reset the format to default. Problem = Possible software defect in migration script
- #2: Incident = Login to the ERP is not possible from time to time. Solution = User has to restart VPN client. Problem = WiFi or Internet speed might be too slow, which could be the root cause.
- #3: Incident = Bad performance on your device. Solution = Close some applications or restart device. Problem = The slowness could be caused by malware or viruses.
Step four: Problem resolution – now that you know what caused the problem, document how it can be solved. This includes any possible workarounds too. This documentation is typically housed in a Known Error Database for future reference by service team members, and sometimes, directly by customers.
Step five: Problem closure – well, as the name implies, the problem is now closed. A quick double check of the documentation’s completion and a review of any major problems may be incorporated at this stage.
Service management tools support practical problem management workflows
Modern service management tools, like OTRS, make problem management simple. When an incident arises, you classify the ticket as a “problem.” You can document all relevant details directly in your ticket – from customer information to priority to eventual resolution steps.
Then, you link all relevant incidents to it. This lets you control the incidents in a very easy way and reduces the effort of keeping your customers up-to-date. In OTRS 8, the Primary/Secondary feature makes it possible to:
- Close the problem, ensuring that all linked incidents will be automatically closed as well.
- Write an email from the problem, and all customers in the linked incident will get the same mail. (Or, if you want to send to only a subset. you certainly can.)
- Have an overview of all current problems.
In addition to this useful feature, OTRS offers an ITIL-compliant problem management process that can be quickly added to your instance to help your team automate their workflows and deal with problems faster.
Stop fixing the same incidents over and over again by finding workarounds. Start analyzing the root cause of an incident to increase the quality of your services and products. Don’t be afraid to talk about: “Problems!”
If you want to talk to an expert about problem management in OTRS, contact us today.