An Overview on Problem Management

IT incidents are unavoidable. An organization can put its best efforts into fortifying its IT systems but there would always be risks.

Apparently, neglected incidents impede business productivity. This is why it's important for an organization to be able to provide quick solutions that would help ensure seamless continuity of business operations. This can be achieved with ITSM problem management.

ITSM Problem Management Definition

Problems occur from major incidents that affect many users, or from recurring incidents. The good news is, these problems can be determined in infrastructure diagnostic systems way before they affect users.

This is done through problem management—a core component of ITSM frameworks. It's the process of identifying and managing the causes of incidents on an IT service.

To better understand the ITSM problem management definition, it's a procedural way to ensure only minimal incidents will arise from IT infrastructure operations. This involves going through incidents to identify the root causes and fixes, as well as minimize the severity of the incidents through appropriate documentation of existing issues and implementing workarounds.

ITSM Problem Definition

Put simply, the goal of problem management is to reduce the impact of incidents and eliminate recurring ones.

Reactive Problem Management vs. Proactive Problem Management

Reactive problem management responds to incidents that show up and advance with the problem management process. It's designed to find and eliminate the root causes of known errors and only takes care of a problem when it shows up as major or recurring incidents.

Proactive problem management, on the other hand, identifies issues, faults, and known errors by reviewing past incidents, network monitor data logs, and other sources of information. The identified problems are then resolved permanently before they arise as incidents.

Both of these problem management solutions follow the same phases of problem-solving:

  • Problem identification
  • Problem control
  • Error control

They may differ when it comes to how problem identification is approached but both processes provide definite advantages to service management.

Organizations that are new to problem management may focus their efforts on deploying a reactive problem management process. But as their service delivery matures, they should switch to a proactive problem management process as part of continuous service improvement.

The Problem Management Process

It's crucial for organizations to understand the main steps of problem management in order to avoid incurring multiple incidents at a time.

Here are the steps you may need to familiarize yourself with:

  • Problem detection - proactively identifying problems so they can be fixed, or determining workarounds before future incidents happen.
  • Categorization and prioritization - monitor and assess known problems for your teams to organize and work on the most relevant and high-value problems.
  • Investigation and diagnosis - pinpoint the underlying contributing causes of the problem and the best course of action for resolution.
  • Record known errors - a known error is “a problem that has a logged root cause and a workaround.” Registering this information results in less downtime if a problem triggers an incident for the second time.
  • Create a workaround, if necessary - a workaround is a temporary solution to minimize the impact of problems and prevent them from becoming incidents. Workarounds may not always be ideal but they can mitigate impacts to business and avoid a customer-facing incident.
  • Resolve and close the problem - once a problem is eliminated and can no longer cause another incident, it can already be closed.

ITSM Problem Management Roles and Responsibilities

In some small IT organizations, the team's responsibilities might be integrated with one another, or in the case of large, multinational enterprises, they may be specialized. Either way, each role within a problem management team is essential.

Here are the general roles and responsibilities of problem management teams:

  • Problem manager - akin to a team leader, the problem manager is responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire practice.
  • Problem owner - accountable for the life cycle of any problem tickets assigned to them.
  • Problem agent - responsible for the tasks associated with a problem ticket.
  • Diagnosis team - a mixture of people with different expertise, accountable for the identification of a problem.

Benefits of ITSM Problem Management

The ITSM problem management definition includes a series of advantages to different facets of an organization. These include:

  • Decreased time to resolution
  • Costly incidents prevention
  • Increased productivity
  • Opportunity to empower teams to find and learn from underlying causes
  • Promote continuous service improvement
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Problem Management Tips

If you want to establish a seamless and efficient problem management workflow, these tips may help:

  • Don't rely too much on reactive analysis; explore the implementation of proactive problem management when possible
  • Create an open environment within your teams where operations and IT problems are shared
  • Focus on critical services
  • Ask questions and use the ‘5 whys’
  • Spread the knowledge
  • Aim to become a learning organization
  • Track follow-up


Incidents may have crucial impacts on the future reliability of your business. By identifying and eliminating the driving forces behind these incidents, this risk may be eradicated. Just keep in mind that problem management isn’t just about finding and fixing incidents. It's also about understanding underlying causes and determining the best method to eliminate that root cause.If you need to simplify support of users and IT infrastructures, choose ITarian ITSM tool. We automate service management to help your business succeed. Contact us now!

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