Problem management involves identifying, analyzing, and resolving potential incidents that disrupt services. Problem management can save IT teams time and effort by decreasing incident ticket volumes. Effective problem management requires an effective and standardized method for categorizing, prioritizing, and solving issues. Furthermore, an information repository must exist to record workarounds or known errors that might arise during management activities.
Proactive Problem Management
Proactive problem management practices are essential to the process and provide you with a preventative approach to infrastructure. By identifying and solving problems BEFORE they become incidents reported by businesses, proactive problem management helps minimize disruptions to operations, increase productivity, and decrease time spent on firefighting activities.
Proactive problem management typically starts with reviewing incident data or consulting with a dedicated Problem Coordinator, who then attempts to identify incidents that create the most work for their Service Desk. These reviews may be automated or manual and should aim to detect reoccurring incidents requiring significant resources from Service Desk staff.
Once identified, the root cause of repeated incidents can be established, and a permanent fix provided to prevent their recurrence and reduce Service Desk incidents. Once applied to infrastructure systems affected by them, this permanent solution contains future incidents from being filed through Service Desk services.
Proactive problem management entails providing customers with information to enable them to address problems independently without calling the Service Desk for help. This may be accomplished via knowledge bases, self-service portals, or other communication methods.
Proactive problem management means reducing the volume and time taken to resolve incidents logged at and determined by your Service Desk, ultimately leading to increased customer and staff satisfaction levels, lower service delivery costs, and an overall increase in value delivered by organizations.
Implementing proactive problem management requires knowledge of guidelines, specific recommendations, and commitment to continuous improvement. Implementation will also need time, money, and human resources to enforce changes.
Organizations’ main obstacles when implementing proactive problem management include lacking an effective change control process, misaligning business stakeholders, or inertia/cultural barriers that impede progress. A collaborative knowledge base utilized by all parties involved will be crucial in helping overcome some of these hurdles.
Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis has become integral to problem-solving methodologies like Lean Six Sigma and Eight Dimensions. Root cause analysis equips teams with tools to pinpoint the sources of an undesirable event and develop corrective or preventive solutions accordingly. Through root cause analysis, causal factors and issues can often be identified – providing teams with all they need for effective decision-making and problem-resolution.
An essential step of this process is reconstructing a timeline of events. This allows the team to pinpoint which specific events or conditions led to an incident and other coexisting issues. A root cause must be the significant unplanned contributor to an unwanted result or need, and its removal would significantly reduce risks and frequencies associated with that issue.
Root cause analysis tools will vary by team; however, fishbone diagrams and fault tree analyses are frequently employed as approaches. Another effective strategy is the Kepner-Tregoe method which encourages investigators to ask why multiple times to isolate likely causes for any given issue.
Utilizing this information-gathering technique, an investigation team will use backward elimination of causal factors to find their root cause. This approach is most frequently seen within quality or safety contexts but can be implemented across any industry to detect hidden issues.
Root-cause investigation can be time and resource intensive. Yet, its accuracy and comprehensiveness are essential to developing effective short- and long-term solutions that build trust between stakeholders, customers, or patients and their employees. Furthermore, conducting thorough root cause analyses is an ideal platform for training new team members. It gives managers access to robust problem-solving methodologies like root cause analysis that allows managers to take full advantage of any opportunities for future improvement.
Collaborative Problem Management
Collaborative problem management practices provide teams with a powerful way to address incidents. Teams using collaborative methods are better at finding solutions faster than those without; collaboration allows various perspectives to be discussed and examined, leading to more effective solutions.
This problem-solving method was conceptualized from an evolutionary standpoint, with researchers noting that humans first began developing these skills during the Stone Age. Its core is cooperation fueled by three communicative motives: the human joy of working together, satisfaction from overcoming challenges, and striving to do good work.
To be most effective, team members must feel at ease sharing ideas – even those that appear contradictory or are not viable in the immediate future – without fear of contradicting each other or being dismissed outright. They should practice “yes and” thinking instead of polarized (“either/or”) thinking; this approach fosters creativity that could yield innovative concepts in the long run.
Collaborative problem-solving works best when the group includes participants with similar skill levels. This will foster a shared experience while building empathy among group members; however, this does not imply anyone needs to serve as the leader; instead, the goal should be set as one and worked toward collectively.
One downside of this method for problem-solving is its increased timeframe; much time will be spent discussing and analyzing ideas during meetings, which should remain as small as possible to facilitate more productive brainstorming sessions.
One challenge involved with service management ecosystems is changing the mindset. In the past, IT leaders often saw incident and problem management processes as separate functions unrelated to other departments. These two functions now collaborate seamlessly to streamline problem analysis and resolution and identify potential root causes before incidents even happen, allowing teams to deliver updates faster while decreasing incidents.
Adaptive Problem Management
Leading-edge problem management practices have evolved from reactive to proactive in recent years, with aggressive practices identifying root causes and providing solutions to prevent incidents or workarounds as they arise. This shift allows organizations to reduce the time and expense of incident resolution while improving bottom-line results. Proactive Problem Management includes risk assessments, monitoring application logs, searching Known Error databases and product field notices to find possible fixes, and conducting reviews of current service levels and performance metrics to identify issues before they impact users.
Implementing this strategy most effectively involves equipping first-level technical staff with the expertise to probe problems and find solutions, which requires substantial investments in training and career progression for your team members. This frees up higher-level teams’ time for proactive problem management activities, which could reveal new areas for improvement while transitioning your NOC from reactive mode into one which offers quality assurance and improvement initiatives.
Example: A poor Internet connection is a reasonably straightforward issue that technicians can address by switching providers or fixing loose wiring. But more complex challenges such as workplace conflicts, cultural or behavioral changes, or altering long-held beliefs require adaptive leadership to address successfully. Such supervision must foster collaboration and creativity while welcoming diverse ideas and perspectives when there are no apparent solutions.
Adaptive problem-solving is a cognitive and metacognitive process with three stages: definition, searching for solutions, and applying solutions (shown below). Successful problem solvers recognize they will encounter unexpected obstacles when making their decisions and adjust accordingly, taking incremental choices rather than making commitments that may be regrettable down the road.
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