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The Challenges of Implementing ITIL Problem Management

Problem Management

Many problem management initiatives begin because an organization is so busy fighting fires that it never seems able to address emergencies in a timely manner. 

Even organizations with management initiatives still find it difficult to stop operating in firefighting mode. Firefighting mode is when organizations turn to incident management for a short-term solution rather than problem management which is akin to fireproofing- a long term solution. 

The key is making a shift from reactive management to Proactive Management and leveraging the tools available in today’s service management suites. We shall discuss this later but for now let’s look at why problem management doesn’t often work. Problem management initiatives fail for any of the following reasons:

  • There’s an excessive amount of firefighting

  • IT doesn’t have enough information to successfully execute the initiative. 

  • Little use or enforcement of best practice process

  • They have a tendency to be very resource-intensive. It costs businesses time and money.

  • There’s not enough automation in use

Proactive Management helps with this by being ahead of incidents before they occur, decreasing the impact on the business and firefighting effort IT uses to restore service. Waiting for incidents to occur and then referring them to problem management for root-cause analysis doesn’t actually help the underlying causes of those incidents. 

It’s only after they’ve occurred several times that the appropriate actions are taken and by then the business is losing faith in IT.

Making the Shift from Reactive to Proactive Management

Let’s look at several ways you can help move from reactive to proactive problem management, starting with the definition of problem management:

According to ITIL®:

Problem management aims to manage the lifecycle of all problems. The primary objectives of this process are to prevent incidents from happening and to minimize the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented.

There’s a difference between incidents and problems: incidents are interruptions in the normal operation of a service, while problems are the causes of the incidents. Restoring service does not fix the underlying problem, it sometimes does nothing more than mask the problem. Problem management seeks to resolve the underlying cause.

(See, “Our take on making modifications to the ITIL® v4”)

In reactive management, IT looks for the root cause of an incident after it has occurred, while proactive problem management focuses on finding issues in the operational environment and fixing them before a service interruption occurs. This is how proactive problem management remains ahead of the incident, eliminating firefighting.

Proactive problem management relies on data:

  • Incident details that show repetitive trends

  • Monitoring data that could predict hardware or software failures

  • Spotting increases in utilization and potential capacity issues

Proactive problem management analyzes data to identify trends and underlying problems that could eventually cause an incident, then addressing them before they do.

The advantages of implementing proactive management:

For the Business

  1. Improves efficiency and effectiveness
  2. Improves the business’ perception of IT
  3. Improves relationships and alignment with the business
  4. Frees up resources for higher-value tasks
  5. Enables innovation by creating more time for it
  6. Increases productivity and team effectiveness

For IT Management 

  1. Increases understanding of root causes
  2. Improves efficiency
  3. Improves returns on IT investments
  4. Improves IT Service Management stakeholder alignment
  5. Improves internal and external communications

Achieving Proactive Management for Problems

Like any IT Service Management (ITSM) process, proactive management of problems requires a combination of people, process and technology. Addressing each of these is needed to achieve success in this area.


The people aspects of proactive problem management start at the top, by making leadership aware of the benefits and gaining its support. 

Then, with its help, you can address the common organizational hurdles, which include many, from siloed islands of support performing localized incident and problem management activities to, and including, pockets of resistance.

To eliminate the silos and convince people to work together, consider an educational program combined with managing an organizational change management effort that includes marketing and awareness campaigns. This effort should also include defining and clarifying your people’s roles in resolving issues proactively. 

Ultimately, involving people in solving problems before they impact the business and understanding how their work benefits the organization is much more rewarding than firefighting.


Technology obstacles can be addressed by starting with a tool consolidation effort, ensuring all teams within the organization use the same tools and sufficient technology has been deployed. 

The reason for this is simple: when the success of an effort relies on data and trending information, the more data in a single view, the more likely trends will be spotted early enough, so the proactive problem management process can address them.

A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) constructed through automated IT discovery and both service and relationship mapping form the base for understanding the operational environment. 

Incident and event management provides the historical data needed to enable data analytics tools and artificial intelligence to work with the CMDB to identify trends and potential fixes, while automation can place these fixes anytime a trend indicates an incident could occur. 


With the same data, you can use proactive management processes to identify a cause and fix it permanently. This combination is what eliminates the firefighting and lets IT benefit from proactive problem management.

Finally, the process becomes the glue that pulls the two together. Consider merging processes from IT Asset Management (ITAM), IT and Security Operations Management and IT Service Management (ITSM) to build a holistic operating model to support proactive problem identification and resolution.

Virima: The Fitting Solution to Problem Management

All of these areas are discussed in more detail in the recent Virima webinar, “The Problems with Your IT Problem Management – And How to Solve Them.” In this webinar, you will learn how to ensure your IT people, processes and technologies are adequately prepared to deliver proactive management. 

Virima features can automatically discover and map your critical IT resources and the interconnections that link them to one another, your applications and services, and your users.

Virima is here to help. To get started, contact us today to schedule a demo and explore the possibilities!

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