Problem Management, prevent incidents

It’s not uncommon for an organization to lack a Problem Management team, but it is arguably one of the most important IT service management (ITSM) areas within an IT department.

The ITIL problem management process investigates recurring incidents, the root cause of incidents, and provides a formal focus on incident prevention. Without formal Problem Management, these activities can end up in a black hole.

So if your IT service desk keeps seeing and feeling the same repeated incident tickets, a high number of incidents coming in, or has a customer satisfaction score (CSAT) that’s embarrassingly low, Problem Management might be the ally you need to get sorted. Five good reasons for Problem Management:

1. Reduces the volumes of your incident tickets (and the time and effort they consume)

Your IT support staff will answer the phone (or answer emails) and make the same calls over and over. Maybe even with the same people. Then they solve the same problems repeatedly.

Your incident reports show you the “repeated” trends – the same categorization, the same users, the same incidents. Sounds familiar?

The reason this happens is that the tickets are only viewed at the incident level. So you have a problem with problem management. This means that the incident (the symptom) is being resolved, but the problem (the root cause) that caused it is still in the background. If you don’t fix the problem, it will keep coming back.

If you don’t know this terminology, let’s take a quick look at the ITIL definitions to explain what they mean:

  • An incident is an unplanned service interruption or loss of quality.
  • A problem is the cause of one or more incidents.

So if you only fix the interruption while it is happening, the cause will continue to cause interruptions in your service. This leads to repeated incidents.

And repeated incidents mean more tickets, which is bad for your customers, bad for your staff and bad for the image of IT in your organization.

Problem Management allows you to investigate and resolve the cause of the interruption. Solve the cause and the problem disappears. Once the problem is gone, eliminate those tickets that keep coming back to your service desk.

Ultimately, if you start looking at problems instead of incidents, you reduce the number of recurring tickets. This means your staff spends less time on firefighting and more time on the things that really matter.

2. Reduce the load on your IT service desk personnel

One of the main reasons why your service desk employees have a burnout is too heavy a workload. Too many cards are coming in and each card is as urgent as the next. In addition, prioritizing incidents can be out of the window, because the number of tickets is so high that everything needs to be looked at now. Which affects both business and the health of the workforce.

Your service desk has tickets that come in that need to be checked, tickets that are due to service level agreement (SLA) violations, and outdated tickets that insist on SLA statistics.

Add to that the monotony of firefighting day in and day out and it’s no wonder that staff turnover at the IT service desk is so high (and increasing).

Once your IT organization starts taking on Problem Management, your service desk agents will begin to see a reduction in repeat tickets. And two things happen when you reduce recurring incidents:

  • The monotony of solving the same problems disappears.
  • The workload of the staff decreases.
  • Now that your service desk employees are dealing with a smaller, more varied workload, they can enjoy a less pressured and more enjoyable work experience.

In addition, you do not have to spend too long on Problem Management before you can take advantage of these benefits.

3. Shorten your average repair time (MTTR)

Part of a problem manager’s responsibility is to create and maintain a database of known errors (KEDB). Where a “known bug” is a problem for which a documented “workaround” exists. Ideally, a problem record becomes a known error shortly after it is logged.

When a problem becomes a known bug, it can mean that a permanent solution to the cause is still being sought, with a workaround to resolve the incident faster in the meantime.

The KEDB is owned by the problem manager, but is used within both the problem management and incident management process. So by having a KEDB, your service desk agents can refer to this knowledge when an incident occurs to see if there is a solution.

This often means that the end user is back up and running much faster, because the service desk agent now knows exactly how to restore the service.

Another advantage of the KEDB is that all your agents can provide the same level of service to your end users. If you have well-documented workarounds or solutions to your incidents, you don’t have to rely on employees to remember each individual solution. Whether you’re experienced or new to the service desk, your agents can provide the service your end users expect (and I would add, deserve).

4. Prevent malfunctions before they occur

Imagine being able to prevent incidents before they happen. Yes, now we are talking!

Proactive Problem Management should be part of your Continuous Service Improvement (CSI). It requires a lot more time and focus than reactive Problem Management, but once you get there, you can start identifying when a service outage might happen and take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t.

Is It Easy? Absolutely not. Proactive Problem Management needs other processes if it is to be useful. It requires assistance from incident management, asset management, event management, change management and access management. You also need monitoring tools and it can only really work with a dedicated problem management team.

However, the benefits of proactive Problem Management are clear: you prevent incidents before they happen. This means no tickets to the service desk and no interruptions for your end users. Most importantly, it can also prevent major incidents for business!

5. Get a higher CSAT score

Simply put, if you achieve all of the points I discussed above, then you are pretty much guaranteed to improve your CSAT score.

If your end users constantly see the same issues and need to log the same incident tickets, they won’t be happy. If their service is constantly disrupted or if they experience ebb and flow in quality, they are likely to give your IT support a low score. And if the level of service they receive when they need to contact the service desk is inconsistent, they probably won’t rate your agents highly.

The Problem Management Process solves all this.

Your end users will see the number of recurring incidents decrease, so they spend less time on the phone with IT. Then when they need to call, it doesn’t matter who they contact – they get a consistent level of support efficiency and effectiveness.

Finally, if you prevent incidents before they happen, end users don’t have to call you at all. And if you know an incident will occur, but you can’t prevent it, at least notify your end users to prepare for it.

Imagine that the CSAT score that IT gets!

The trick to getting Problem Management right is to start slow. Build the process gradually, document what works, and learn from what doesn’t work along the way. Don’t be put off if you don’t already have every other process in place. Although proactive Problem Management is the dream, you can still get a lot done with reactive Problem Management.

So what are you waiting for? Use Problem Management in your organization to give your end users the IT experience they deserve! Do you need help setting up Problem Management or would you rather leave it to an experienced professional? Please feel free to contact CSS Consultancy!

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