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.
With the updated version of ITIL imminent (the 29 July 2011), I participated in a BrightTalk webinar on “what next for ITIL.”
My views on this are very clear, that we need to “look back before we look forward.” I touched on some of this in a previous blog, 2011: An ITIL Versioning Odyssey, but think it worthwhile to continue to articulate my views in this area.
Let's start with what I consider to be the biggest issue: the gulf between theory and practice with ITIL.
There is no doubt that ITIL can benefit I&O organizations. There are certainly many I&O organizations encouraging, or even forcing, their people to take ITIL training and qualifications: There are at least 1.5 million people with the certification and there is no sign of this slowing down. Not only are trainers busy, so are ITSM consultants and, of course, industry analysts. But, from an industry analyst perspective, there is a lot wrong with ITIL. This is not just how it ballooned in size from ITIL v2 to ITIL v3, but also how it is adopted in the real world.
So what's going wrong?
If you look at existing ITIL v2 adoption, there is a focus on the reactive elements such as incident management, problem management, change management, and maybe even configuration management and service-level management. How many organizations have moved on to the more proactive elements such as availability management, capacity management, IT financial management, and continual service improvement?
OK, so we all probably now know that the long-awaited ITIL “refresh,” ITIL v3.1 (or the ITIL 2011 Edition as it now seems to be called), is to be released on the 29th July 2011. But four years on from the release of ITIL v3 where are we exactly?
Let’s start with the provided facts about the updated version of ITIL. The ITIL Best Practice Management update points out that this is an “update” not a new version. Paraphrasing the update on the update, ITIL 2011 Edition is designed to:
Resolve any errors or inconsistencies.
Improve the ITIL publications by addressing issues raised to do with "clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness."
Address suggestions for change made by the training community.
Review the "Service Strategy" publication to improve accessibility and understanding.
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