This is one of the most vital and yet least valued activities in Problem Management. I have been involved with many organisations that have implemented PM and problem control activities without spending enough time on problem classification. Sure most IT people see the importance of correctly identifying and recording Problems and then assigning appropriate priority, impact and urgency to these problems, based on clearly defined tables or matrices. The reactive problems are then efficiently processed, however without a well thought out Problem Categorisation Table or schema, it makes it very difficult for the more Proactive Problem management activities to analyse trends and perform effective preventative maintenance of the IT infrastructure. So when you are next looking at opportunities to improve your Problem Management activities, consider how well do you categorise problems?

An Australian Government Department working in the areas of research and statistical analysis undertook an implementation of ITIL® Problem Management.

The IT organisation identified that:
1.    significant IT issues (problems) were not being dealt with in a consistent manner, and
2.    the appropriate stakeholders were not being identified and involved in the resolution process.

These two issues were clearly delaying the resolution process, and therefore the negative business impacts (loss of customer satisfaction, confidence, productivity and revenue) were growing unnecessarily.

To overcome these issues, the Problem Management process was implemented. The Problem Manager and their team was selected and heavily promoted to the IT organisation and customers. The team were technical specialists with access to advanced diagnosis tools. The Problem Manager was selected due their strong and experience in both IT and the core business of the organisation. They were supported by the CIO both being allocated high levels of authority and access to IT organisational resources. The Problem Manager had direct access to the CIO. When top impact problems occurred, the Problem Manager could involve, and temporally employ IT specialists from any area of the IT organisation. A high level IT manager was assigned as the communications officer for the problem, which freed up the Problem Manager to focus their team on the resolution process. The communications officer would report daily to affected customers on the resolution process.

This process was well received by customers as it was clear that the IT organisation had a consistent method to manage significant IT problems and customers were updated daily on the resolution process. Identification of the permanent solution was well advertised and problem reviews provided visible feedback where the IT organisation could improve in its operations.

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