What Is Problem Management? Types, Steps And Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Problem management is a key information technology (IT) task to locate, resolve and prevent IT problems. IT professionals can use it to discover the root causes of service-impacting issues, reduce reoccurring events and mitigate the impact of unanticipated disruptions. Understanding the problem management process can be helpful if you work in an IT team or have an interest in a career in IT. In this article, we answer the question ‘What is problem management?', share its types, discuss how it differs from other IT processes, provide steps to solve IT issues and outline the benefits of this process:

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What Is Problem Management?

IT professionals may seek the answer to 'What is problem management?' when identifying and resolving the fundamental cause of an issue or potential issue within an IT service. It is one of four IT Service Management (ITSM) process management areas, the other three being change management, incident management and service request management. Problem management involves the analysis of an issue's core cause and its elimination to prevent a reoccurrence.

For an IT team, problem management is a valuable resource because certain issues may prevent other processes from running smoothly, which may result in additional delays for a business. Problem management professionals can continuously engage in problem management processes, so they can spot issues before they develop. They use their problem-solving abilities and understanding of various IT lifecycles to take preventative action.

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Types Of Problem Management

The two main problem management approaches are:

  • Proactive problem management: This approach, associated with Continual Service Improvement (CSI), aims to identify future issues and prevent them from reoccurring by identifying and eliminating their causes before they can potentially disrupt service. It manages problems before they arise by reviewing previous occurrences, networking monitor data logs and finding other sources of information.

  • Reactive problem management: This occurs when one or more incidents arise and involves responding to reoccurring issues by identifying the underlying cause and finding a long-term solution. It simply addresses the fundamental causes of known errors and only reacts to a problem when it manifests as a major or recurring incident.

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Difference Between Problem Management And Incident Management

An incident is a sudden, unanticipated disruption to a service. The goal of incident management is to correct issues and swiftly restore services, often with temporary fixes or workarounds. By contrast, problems can be the root of one or several incidents. The key components of problem management are analysis of underlying reasons and future incident prevention.

When repeated events with similar issues occur or an incident impacts several users, it is necessary to report it as a problem. The timescale for incident management is shorter and the main objectives are to resolve the event and restore services. Problem-solving can take longer and involves establishing what caused an incident and how to prevent it from reoccurring. Where incident management ensures the continuity of business operations and problem management exposes the underlying causes of incidents, the two disciplines complement one another and relate closely.

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Difference Between Problem Management And Service Request Management

A service request forms part of a business's regular services, for which there are specific automatic responses. Service request management refers to the procedures and tools that organisations use to respond to service requests from customers, staff members and suppliers. A problem is a service-stopping event that affects customer experience and significantly impacts business processes. It is an internal fault within a company's services or products. Problem management reduces the likelihood and effect of such events by detecting fundamental causes and creating workarounds and known faults.

Service request tickets are less urgent than problems. Staff can schedule them and resolve them quickly. Problems require immediate attention and usually take longer to resolve.

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Difference Between Problem Management And Change Management

A change is an adjustment to an organisation's IT infrastructure, procedures, services, products, apps, vendors or any other processes that affect the organisation's service delivery. The goal of change management is to increase the success rate of any changes that occur. By contrast, problem management remedies a problem by identifying its underlying cause.

As change management is a separate process that solves a problem while controlling risks, problem management and change management are concepts that closely relate. IT professionals usually employ problem management to solve a problem through change control and perform a post-implementation evaluation. If a change results in disruption or downtime, the problem management process analyses the change.

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How To Manage IT Problems

The problem management process usually involves the following steps:

1. Identify and diagnose

IT teams examine the issue and outline its nature and scope. To detect common issues, such as data breaches, software defects, corrupted data and rewritten files, they employ analytical tools. They then strategically examine the root of the problem using problem analysis or root cause analysis. They look for causes or conditions that may have contributed to the incident and examine any related events that might have originated from the same source, together with any contributory procedures.

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2. Organise and prioritise

After determining the problem, the problem management team records their findings. This involves documenting information, including the issue type, description, related incidents, affected CIs from the CMDB, category, user data, status, resolution and closure. The team classifies and prioritises issues to understand better their impact and urgency. The problem team can track the issue, tag known errors, manage them in a database and refer to them by keeping a record of the information. They can use this documentation as a resource if issues persist.

3. Develop a workaround, update and pause

The team then conducts diagnostics to detect underlying problems that may have contributed to the issue. They can do this manually or with the aid of diagnostic software. If the incident has suspended or altered operations, another team can implement a temporary fix or workaround simultaneously. This can help reduce any negative effects by keeping the work moving forward and preventing backlogs. Workarounds can give the team more time to fix the issue.

The problem management team may record a known error, which is a file with details of the identified issue. The team can compile a database of these records to aid future problem-solving. By documenting incidents and logging solutions, it makes it quicker and easier to identify and resolve similar recurring events. Teams pause the problem management process if the issue has a high impact and calls for change management.

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4. Solve and close

The team uses the information from the diagnosis to develop a solution. It uses this stage to experiment with approaches, enlist the aid of other teams and test the solution's effectiveness. After the team determines it has fixed the error and the system is operating normally, it can declare the issue resolved. For future reference, a service desk technician may record this in the team's documentation or error record. Closure means reviewing and taking steps to ensure the incident does not result in further issues.

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Benefits Of Problem Management

Timely and efficient problem management usually generates the following benefits:

  • Prevents incidents reoccurring: Problem management addresses and resolves underlying issues that cause problems. Over time, there are fewer recurrent incidents, which elevate the quality of service and create more time for other projects or activities.

  • Makes financial savings: A company's system may crash because of serious issues, costing it money. Rapid problem-solving by the problem team can reduce downtime, which can limit financial loss.

  • Boosts customer satisfaction: Problem management can resolve issues that may prevent customers from using the company's product or service and minimise occurrences to reduce repeat encounters. This can increase customer satisfaction by enhancing the client experience.

  • Reduces problem-solving time: The problem team typically receives updates about a business's IT systems and further incidents and the more faults they repair, the faster they may become at fixing additional issues. Eventually, they can correct certain flaws in the first attempt or quickly find long-term answers to other problems.

  • Improves cross-functional cooperation: Problem management is a collaborative process which may involve IT, the security team, the legal department or product or service teams. This encourages departments within the organisation to collaborate towards a common goal and can increase knowledge and productivity.

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