Resolving Problems: Distinguishing Impact and Source

Problem management can sometimes become a challenge for IT Service Management.  With the layers of technologies present in the environment, any problem that arises could have involve a number of support technicians to simply identify the problem.  Distributed applications may incur a disruption that resides at the client, the network, the server, or the application level.  Few IT organizations have individuals who can support every level, requiring cooperation to reduce the resolution time incurred in complex problems.

Dealing with these types of problems are more complicated than may be originally perceived.  The ITIL® process framework provides incredible insights into the potential difficulty.  Most IT organizations have processes in place that are basically find a problem/solve a problem solutions, usually given the name problem management.  ITIL® separates the situation into two processes:  Incident Management and Problem Management.

When a disruption to service occurs, the Incident Management process is invoked.  The purpose of the process is to minimize the impact of the problem on service delivery.  If a resolution is readily available, then it is applied.  If not, the focus of the efforts of incident management is to apply a workaround to the problem so that service delivery can return to normal capacity.  The unresolved problem is used to invoke the Problem Management process, which focuses its efforts on finding the source of the problem.  Once finding the source, the problem can be analyzed and a solution applied.  In many cases, the resolution will require a change to the environment.  The problem and resolution are also documented in a Known Problem database for use by the Incident Management process.

The way ITIL® handles disrupted services give the greatest depth to problem management.  From a strategic perspective, focus on problem resolution is strictly linear thinking.  Seeing disruptions in terms of impact and source allow an IT organization to explore their capabilities in preventing and handling disruptions in the future, assisting in identifying and applying improvements towards resolving problems in the environment.

So the next time a problem occurs, consider that more is at stake than simply finding a resolution.  First, reduce the impact than find the source.  In the end, the best resolution will be applied.

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