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7 steps to ensure your approach to IT Problem Management ISN’T the problem

When pushed, most organisations would claim that they have an IT incident response plan. It’s surprising though how few have committed such a plan to paper or created a policy or a process that is clear and easily deployed.

It is an unfortunate trend and often, the greatest pain caused to your organisation by an IT problem is not the problem itself but your reaction to it.

Here are 7 Steps to Ensure Your Approach to IT Problem Management ISN’T The Problem.

1 – Make Reducing Problems Your Main Metric

One of the problems that come with problem management is how to measure its effectiveness. This is possibly why many organisations don’t have this crucial function in place – it’s hard to measure ROI and therefore difficult to justify.

Many metrics are employed with this end in mind but few deliver tangible evidence of success. Measuring reduction of problems does.

To get the best out of this metric – be specific! If you have server availability issues, for example, commit to reducing incidents by 60% in twelve months. Regularly benchmark your progress against your target.

2 – Prioritise

When you consider the number of angles from which an IT incident can come at you, from a malicious cyber-attack to simple user error, it is important that part of your Problem Management strategy is to prioritise.

A large part of the role of the effective Problem Manager is almost administrative! Reviewing requests and deciding which are justified, for example.

A key decider in your prioritisation process should be business case, it can help justify the resources required for each investigation and remedy.

3 – Think Long Term Solutions

Don’t simply approach an incident with a view to fixing the problem that has presented itself today. Instead think long term about how such an issue could happen again either locally, or elsewhere within your IT estate.

When you start to think about problem management in this way, when you treat causes not symptoms, over time you reduce the number of incidents of a similar nature.

4 – Add A Virtual Black Box to Your IT Operation.

I remember leaving the Apollo 13 movie starring Tom Hanks and wondering what happened next? I wanted a sequel that showed NASA’s fine tooth comb investigation of the data to figure out what had caused the problem and how to prevent it in the future.

Think about Apollo 13. NASA’s mission team had a plan and the astronauts on board brought their considerable experience to the problem they had encountered. It was, in many ways, a textbook example of Problem Management. For me, though, the crucial bit happened after the popping of champagne corks away from the public’s gaze.

Proper post problem analysis can have a huge impact on reducing future incidents.

5 – Get In, Get On, Get Out

Problems are not like fine wine; they don’t improve the longer you leave them.

The quicker than you can get started and get finished the more strategic business value you add.

To accomplish this aim, over time develop a sense of low-hanging fruit when it comes to problem management within your organisation. One of my service desk manager friends has a sign on his desktop monitor that says “First rule out human error!” He maintains that 80% of IT incidents reported to him are actually user error so before lifting the bonnet on the system he checks for a human fingerprint.

In most organisations, the vast majority of incidents are caused by human error or process failures, in other words, they’re non-technical. Getting to know and looking for the non-tech behavioural patterns that exist within your incident log can save time and resources.

6 – BE Proactive

Adopting a proactive approach to problem management could be the best thing that you do.

A reactive hindsight driven approach is all that some professions have but we are blessed! Trends from log reports can be analysed and help desk requests are a rich seam of data that can be mined and used to reduce incidents occurring in the future. We have the gift of foresight!

Furthermore – we share! Advanced warning of IT problems are all over social media, forums and newsgroups. Incidents that happen elsewhere can be a powerful asset – you’ll often find a targeted solution that worked and what to avoid because it didn’t too!

7 – Get Help

In a world of commoditised IT, it is no surprise ‘Problem Management as a Service’ is something that you can buy in. It comes in a few shapes and sizes, like a Multisourced Service Desk that can provide effective incident reporting, predictable costs and flexibility of scale, for example.

If you are buying in Problem Management, you can get clear and transparent incident reporting and appropriate remediation processes. Look for a trusted Partner with client-side objectives.

Whatever approach you take to Problem Management, it is very important that you have one. It is essential for any IT organisation wanting to deliver high levels of service, availability and consistent high quality that you have a problem plan in place so this week take time out to imagine the worst happening.

Imagine the disgruntled ex-employee, the under trained end-user, the process failure or the malicious malware attack and ask yourself – what’s YOUR plan?

More about how Stoneseed’s IT Service Management can help you to improve the quality and reduce the cost of your ITSM.

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