There are tasks being done that are called “problem management” at every type and size of business. But it turns out many if not most of those tasks fall short of the accepted definition of true, proactive problem management.

Problem Management: What It Is and Is Not

The IT Process Wiki says “Problem Management aims to manage the lifecycle of all Problems. The primary objectives of this ITIL process are to prevent Incidents from happening, and to minimize the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented. ‘Proactive Problem Management’ analyzes Incident Records, and uses data collected by other IT Service Management processes to identify trends or significant Problems.”

Unfortunately, at too many organizations, there’s insufficient clarity about the things that distinguish problems from incidents. This confusion has been a challenge to IT managers and support providers since before there was an ITIL. And according to the folks at leading IT training provider Global Knowledge, the distinction remains challenging today. Here’s how they attempt to sort it out.

“According to ITIL 4 [the latest version of the ITIL best practices guidelines], an incident is an unplanned interruption to a service, or reduction in the quality of a service. …In layman’s terms, an incident is the representation of an outage.” A problem, as defined in ITIL 4, “is a cause, or potential cause, of one or more incidents. … In layman’s terms, a problem is the representation of the cause or potential cause of one or more outages.”

In other words, incident management is to problem management what firefighting is to fireproofing. Closing an incident is no more problem management than putting out a fire is fireproofing a building. The goal of problem management, especially proactive problem management, is not just to resolve an incident. It is instead to identify and resolve each incident’s root cause, and to learn from the experience to reduce occurrence and recurrence of incidents and problems.

Proactive Problem Management: An Elusive Goal

Clearly, every IT estate can benefit from truly proactive problem management. However, achieving that goal can be daunting, if not impossible for some IT teams. For any of a multitude of reasons, you and your team may just be too busy putting out fires to devote efforts and resources to fireproofing your environment. Common obstacles can include a shortage or lack of skilled, experienced people, broken processes, inadequate or improperly implemented technologies, or combinations or any or all of these.

Ironically, the more difficult proactive problem management is to achieve and maintain, the more needed it is likely to be. If your team is consumed by reactively dealing with incidents and problems, proactive problem management may seem unattainable. Fortunately, there are specific things you and your team can do to move closer to that important goal, starting as soon as today.

Virima participated in a webinar titled “The Problems with Your IT Problem Management – And How to Solve Them” where this topic was discussed in more detail. Follow the link to the webinar and learn how to ensure your IT people, processes, and technologies are adequately prepared to deliver proactive problem management.

Virima: Your Partner for Comprehensive, Effective IT Management

Virima can help to improve IT incident and problem management, as well as IT asset management (ITAM), IT service management (ITSM), and IT operations management (ITOM), across your organization’s entire IT estate. Virima solutions 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. They also produce useful, actionable reports about your IT environment, reports that can help you identify and resolve incidents before they become disruptive problems. Learn more about Virima’s solutions online, or contact Virima today.

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Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard COO Virima Technologies - Mike joined Virima Technologies (Atlanta, GA) in 2010 and oversees Virima ITAM/ITSM SaaS product sales, marketing and field services organizations. He has been providing solutions to solve complex IT challenges in a variety of industries for over 25 years.