The Problem Management trap

Recently I have been asked many times about my view on Incident- and Problemmanagement processes. Many claim these processes are a like, and should be treated in the same way andor by the same person. In the past years I also noticed that Problem Management is many times forgotten or is joined with Incident Management. Even if there was a Problem Manager, his authority was less strong than the Incident Manager. His influence and possibilities are restrained, compared to his partner from Incident Mangament. I never studied or questioned the situation, I accepted it, as it was.

Recently my thoughts are shifting….

challenges-and-risks-of-incident-management-2At first and in highover view the two processen seem alike. Both processes solve an open issue to improve/restore the service. Both processes are done by the same experts. The only obvious difference is the timely manner of them. Both are prioritized, but only the Incidents have strict deadlines on them. EG. An High-prio call has to be solved within 2 clockhours. Another difference might be that most problems are solved using (urgent)changes, but this can also be the case for incidents. So this cannot be seen as a major difference. Also it has no (or minor) impact on the process itself.

Looking deeper into both processes we notice a difference that does impact a lot on the process. Well actually not really the process but influences the way we deal with it. Incident Management is driven by the need to restore the service, where Problem Management is driven to restore the system. Allthough it does not look like a big difference, it sure is one major difference that decides the succes of Problem Management. Where Incident Management is only focussing on restoring, it does not need to comply with the best solution for the longer term. PRoblem Management on the other hand, needs to focus on the best solution for the future, and should not be distracted by restoring the service.

When a Problem Manager picks up a solved Incident with the same people who solved that incident he should be aware that these technicians could be blinded by the solution already provided. This may cause a problem solution that will look correct, but might not be the best solution for the longer term. The Problem Manager should avoid a narrow solutiontrack when picking up a problem. He has to force the team to look beyond and beside the already given (temperarily) solution to reach the best results.

One thought on “The Problem Management trap

  1. I would submit that Incident Management is indeed there to restore the service while Problem Management, on the other hand is there to initiate the RCA and find a permanent never to occur again problem resolution.
    I speak from the old school where Incident and Problem were all in one, as was SLA’s and RCA.


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