When organizations start implementing an ITIL solution, the first Service Support process implemented tends to be Incident Management. This process is the easiest to understand at all levels of an organization – after all – things always go wrong and break, so they will need to be tracked in order to resolve the issue.

The next process implemented tends to be Change Management since incidents are frequently caused by changes.  Doesn’t it make sense for changes to be monitored and tracked so that the Service Desk is able to resolve the resulting incidents as quickly as possible?   At the very least, really large and potentially impactful changes need to be tracked.

Both of these processes are well understood and easy to explain to all levels of the organization.  Everyone will understand them at a basic level and be able to quickly see the value they provide to the organization.

Problem Management is another beast altogether.  Organizations never seem to get around to implementing a formal Problem Management process.  It’s like when a DIY house remodel is done.  It gets 90% completed, but that last little bit of finishing never seems to get done – like those pesky baseboards or last paint touch up.  The pressure of the largest portions of the house remodel is gone, so the urgency to complete the final 10% is not there.

Why is Problem Management such a challenge to implement?

Problem Management tends to be more difficult to understand across the organization. There is a lot of confusion about the differences between Problem Management and Incident Management.  If the Incident was resolved – doesn’t that mean the problem was fixed?  If not, the urgency is also greatly reduced after the Incident is resolved – it’s no longer a high priority.  This confusion makes it difficult to secure funding to implement Problem Management – it’s not seen as something worth adding to the budget.

If funding for implementing Problem Management cannot be obtained, it might be desirable to look into a skunkworks project to implement it.   It might be difficult to carve some time from current staff since they are probably busy resolving incidents that are coming in.  They can never seem to find the time to address underlying problems.  If recurring incidents can be quantified, it may be possible to show upper management how much effort is being expended on these recurring issues in order to procure some funding for Problem Management.

Problem Management results are also difficult to quantify.  It’s difficult to measure how many future Incidents have been avoided due to the resolution of a problem.  You can certainly make a good estimate on incident avoidance for the short term after a problem is resolved, but what about the longer term?  It’s possible that resolution of a particular problem may also avoid other incidents.

Does the Problem Management process similarly impact customer satisfaction? Does it provide enough benefits to the organization in the long run? While difficult to quantify, on a gut level Problem Management adds a great deal to the overall effectiveness of the organizations.  The resolution of a problem will mean:

  • Customer Satisfaction will increase since the required service(s) will not have recurring issues
  • The Service Desk will not need to handle Incidents over and over that are caused by the same root cause – freeing them up for other tasks


While Problem Management seems difficult to implement and may be difficult to cost justify for management, in the long run, whatever an organization can do to reduce the number of recurring incidents will undoubtedly result in higher customer satisfaction ratings.