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Use Problems and Problem Management

Learn about what "problems" are and how problem management can help you. A problem is a recurring issue that affects the quality of a service to a customer, such as a technical glitch, something unclear about the user interface or the absence of a feature or certain information repeatedly requested by customers. Problems are typically incidents that continue to arise, sometimes despite a short-term fix. When a customer is affected by an incident which is resolved with a"quick fix" or workaround, the service for that customer will likely be impaired again because the problem is still active and waiting to produce the recurring incident again and again.

Topics in this article:

About Problem Management

Using Problems

Get Started with Problem Management

Problem Management vs. Incident Management

About Problem Management

Objective: To investigate recurring incidents and other issues, find workarounds and determine next steps of action

Problem management is a proactive way of managing your services, and it's a bridge between keeping customers happy and keeping your business running smoothly and efficiently. Logging Problems helps indicate any underlying issues with a service, which may require long-term solutions. Service Desk seamlessly integrates problems and incidents so you can reuse information, save time, and know where to focus your efforts.

Using Problems

Administrators can configure problem settings to suit the organization's needs. The settings for problems can be managed on a per-service basis, as detailed in the following related articles:

Learn how to create, import, and close problems as well.

Get Started with Problem Management

Problem management is designed to investigate and solve problems within services. A problem usually starts with a symptom, which often manifests itself as a recurring incident. Typically, the next step is to investigate the true problem to try and find the root cause. Unlike the goal of incident management (which is to get the user back up and running as soon as possible), the goal of problem management is to find out exactly why an issue occurred and how it can be fixed or worked around.

If the root cause for a problem is found, then ITIL states that the problem graduates to a known issue. From there, there are essentially 3 paths that can be taken, as follows:

  • Determine that the known issue is not worth the cost to fix it and close the problem.
  • Find a workaround to the problem and document it (such as in a knowledge article) so that when it happens again users know how to get around it.
  • Create a change and fix the problem itself so that it no longer occurs.

Problem Management vs. Incident Management

To those new to ITIL, there is often confusion between incident management and problem management. Essentially, incidents are specific events or disturbances to the user experience (e.g., bugs, issues or defects in a production system); typically, each of those incidents would be from one particular customer. However, if you're getting multiple incidents being logged about the same issue, then it might be a recurring "problem" that should be documented with those incidents (and customers) linked to it. Problems are a common place to deal with a collection of related incidents or for individual important/serious incidents and are where team members can work on a workaround or identifying the root cause of the issue.

In other words, problems are the things that you know are wrong with a service (as opposed to incidents, which often pop up unexpectedly). The idea behind problem management is to minimize the impact of these problems on the organization. Keep in mind that problem management is designed to work closely with incident management. Even though they have different goals, problem management relies on incidents to find trends and known errors. In turn, incident management relies on problems to create pro-active, long-term solutions to recurring incidents.

Note: If you’re logging a defect against a change or release that’s not yet in live/production, consider instead creating an “Issue” within the Test part of the change or release.



Create Problems

Resolve and Close Problems