Discussion topic Problem management Root cause Secrets of the IT department

When problems make things run more smoothly – Secrets of the IT department

Like them or loathe them, all employees will need, at some point, to interact with the support services offered by the IT department. In this series of short articles, we uncover some of the secret workings of the IT department, finding out what is jargon and what is just common sense that can apply to all of us, regardless of our role, work, or profession.

After diving into the workings of incident and change management, let’s explore another hidden secret of the IT department – this time, problem management. Think of it as the Sherlock Holmes of the IT world, based in a bustling London borough. It’s not just about responding to incidents or facilitating changes; its role is to investigate and uncover why those incidents happened in the first place.

What is problem management?

Problem management is the systematic approach to identifying the root causes of incidents, devising a fix, and preventing recurrence. Unlike incident management, which focuses on quick resolution, or change management, which ensures smooth transitions, problem management aims for long-term solutions.

Why problem management matters

Problem management aims to remove recurring incidents and minimise the impact on the services used across the company. It contributes to a more stable and reliable IT environment, saving time and money in the long run.

The problem management life cycle

The life cycle of problem management usually includes these stages:

  1. Problem identification – recognising recurring or significant incidents
  2. Problem categorisation and prioritisation – assessing the impact and urgency
  3. Root cause analysis – digging deep to find the actual cause
  4. Resolution and closure – implementing a long-term solution

Example: A leaky roof

Imagine a leaky roof in an office building. Fixing the leak is akin to incident management, but finding out why the leak happened in the first place is problem management. Was it poor construction or maybe ageing materials? Once identified, preventive measures can be put in place, using change management.

Example: The frequently crashing software

Let’s consider software that crashes frequently. Incident management will restart the software each time to restore service, but problem management will delve into why it crashes so often. Is it a bug or a hardware incompatibility? Upon finding the root cause, a permanent fix can be implemented, using change management.

The benefits of doing this well

Adopting a robust problem management strategy can lead to:

  • Operational excellence – organisations streamline their operations by identifying and eradicating root causes of incidents, leading to higher productivity and efficiency.
  • Financial savings – resolving the root causes of issues means fewer incidents and less downtime, translating into significant cost savings over time.
  • Increased customer loyalty – a stable, reliable system or service creates a better user experience, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Proactive risk management – identifying issues before they become incidents can mitigate potential risks, safeguarding the organisation’s reputation.
  • Business agility – understanding the root causes of problems provides valuable insights that can inform business strategy, allowing the organisation to adapt more quickly to market changes.

By embracing robust problem management, organisations resolve issues and turn them into opportunities for continual improvement.

Your thoughts

We’ve now cracked the case on problem management and its role in ensuring a hassle-free IT environment. Do you have any experiences where identifying the root cause of an issue led to a more effective, long-term solution? Share your stories and insights.

This is the third article in our ‘Secrets of the IT Department’ series. Don’t miss our future explorations into the often-overlooked facets of IT.