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 problem management initiatives still find it difficult to stop operating in firefighting mode. The key is making a shift from reactive problem management to proactive problem management and leveraging the tools available in today’s service management suites.
Problem management initiatives often fail for any of the following reasons:
- There’s too much firefighting
- IT doesn’t have enough information
- Little use or enforcement of best practice process
- They are too resource-intensive
- It’s too costly to the business
- There’s not enough automation in use
Proactive problem 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.
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.
In reactive problem 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.
Proactive problem management:
- Improves efficiency and effectiveness
- Improves the business’ perception of IT
- Improves relationships and alignment with the business
- Frees up resources for higher-value tasks
- Enables innovation by creating more time for it
- Increases productivity and team effectiveness
- Increases understanding of root causes
- Improves efficiency
- Improves returns on IT investments
- Improves IT Service Management stakeholder alignment
- Improves internal and external communications
For the Business
Achieving Proactive Problem Management
Like any IT Service Management (ITSM) process, proactive problem management 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 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 problem 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.
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 problem management. To learn more about Virima’s solutions online, or contact Virima today.