Within far too many organizations, problem management can be considered somewhat of a “poor-relation” to its “sister” service desk and incident management activities. While the service desk and incident management processes often receive adequate investment in terms of staff, definition, training, and ongoing operation, problem management is often “something to be done later (when we have more time)”.
A common issue is that organizations think that they “do” problem management when in fact all they do is react to major incidents – they don’t do proactive problem management, that is investing in IT operations to prevent future issues, the proverbial “spending a penny to save a pound.” One possible cause of this all-too-common scenario is that problems are often confused with incidents (with the terminology often interchanged), or are seen as an incident state rather than a separate entity requiring a different type of response. However, of the major ITIL processes, truly effective problem management activity can provide some of the highest returns to an organization.
I recently participated in a BrightTalk problem management panel session with Barclay Rae (an independent management consultant with 25 years experience in the ITSM industry), Roger Bennett (MD of NGFF and winner of the itSMF USA Project of the Year award in 2008 while at Thomson Reuters), and Craig McDonogh (Director of Product Marketing for Service Now). Given my opening paragraph, we had a high attendance during what was a day filled with problem management-related webinars on BrightTalk … so maybe things are looking up for problem management. I hope so.
Steve Spear not only lectures at MIT and leads workshops on continuous process improvement throughout the US and Europe, but he has also authored a book on the topic called The High-Velocity Edge. Most interesting is how close Steve gets to his subject; he’s not content to observe from afar. For example, he embedded himself into a Toyota team to develop a tier one supplier and has since then worked with Toyota on supplier leadership development. He worked with a hospital’s clinical staff to eliminate terrible complications like infections and patient falls while increasing capacity and reducing cost; he also helped develop and deploy the Alcoa Business System at Alcoa. Steve’s clients range from healthcare providers to manufacturers to food service companies to high-tech companies — making him conversant in businesses producing everything from potato chips to microchips. As a result, he not only speaks as an academic authority, but can also claim insight into how work gets done in the real world.