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A prescription for improving your Problem Management process




A prescription for improving your Problem Management process



This blog is part of a collaborative series created with my colleague Tony Price exploring some of consequences of traditional approaches to IT Service Management. The idea is to challenge current thinking and consider alternative approaches.



In our last blog post we wrote about how managed collaboration can greatly improve customer service and satisfaction with IT when it comes to Incident Management. The secret is to use enterprise collaboration tools to enable people to solve problems without getting overly tangled up in processes.


But managed collaboration also applies to the related ITIL process of Problem Management, and here the benefits are even more obvious. As with Incident Management there is a certain amount of control and compliance that needs to occur; however, beyond that Problem Management is about applying a number of techniques to analyse, diagnose and solve the underlying problem. These techniques are applied by a group of people, potentially across functions and even suppliers, (known as a Problem Solving Group in ITIL 2007 but for some reason dropped in ITIL 2011) that are identified to address the problem.


The way in which the group works is all about collaboration and interaction. The more effectively they can do this then the more effective (and efficient) Problem Management becomes.


Using managed collaboration for better problem solving

Managed collaboration combines traditional Service Management tools with enterprise collaboration tools for a more flexible approach that lets be people: that is, apply knowledge, common sense and, most importantly, collaborate.


Leveraging enterprise collaboration tools can allow ad hoc and diverse groups to be formed quickly even if they are geographically and organisationally dispersed. Sharing the results of problem analysis and data—rather than passing from group to group—can quickly identify possible work arounds. Again this allows the process overhead and burden to be reduced allowing the teams to focus on solving problems.


Incorporating collaboration and social platforms also opens up the opportunity for crowd sourcing. You can leverage a larger pool of knowledge either inside or outside an organisation. This can be particularly effective when the root cause of a problem is difficult to determine (such as an intermittent or “grey” problem) or you need to deal with the interaction between different systems. Again the key here is integrating the approach with traditional Service Management tools to maintain the control and compliance—you don’t want your users to be trying to solve their own problems via Google.


Let me share an example. A friend of mine is an IT Manager in a relatively small organisation. They only have 2 or 3 people in IT. Their knowledge of the business is very good but their overall IT knowledge is limited by their own personal experience. They actively use Twitter, Facebook and other forums to extend their reach and access a larger knowledge base. I questioned if he “trusted” this approach and was it worth the “risk” to his company of getting potentially bad advice. He responded saying if 90% of the people who responded gave the same advice then he was taking “managed risk” and his organisation was comfortable with this as the only other option would be to significantly increase the cost of IT.


What can you do?

Most organisations now have some form of enterprise collaboration tools. Are you using them to improve your service management capability? Can you use them to simplify your processes?


To get an idea of what this might look like take a look at the video in this blog.


Look at your collaboration tools and your processes together with a fresh set of eyes and you may be surprised at what you can achieve.


Related links:


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About the Author


I am the Global Lead of HP’s Service Management Profession with approximately 7,500 members. I gained my Managers Certificate in Service Management in 1998. I have continued to apply Service Management concepts in a number of roles.




A couple of comments/thoughts/questions


1) I expect that most organizations/companies already have some type of preferred enterprise collaboration tool. At HP it is MS Lync. And, this might be complemented by something else. For example, my wife sends me IM via Google Chat. So while I love embedded collaboration as something specifically designed for use by IT or within the IT tools (such as HP Enterprise Collaboration aka EC inside of HP Service Manager), it seems to be a challenge to get people to comfortably adopt/use another collaboration tool. Noting - I like HP EC's ability to include Lync or email. Curious what you and Tony see wrt to using a general purpose tool vs custom/embedded.


2) While collaboration and related "social" mechanisms are hot topic to discuss, it doesn't seem like that many IT organizations are currently using them in earnest. I support the ideas of extended knowledge sources and fully expect this to be more common in the future. I am curious what your thoughts are on barriers to adoption today.



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