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When it comes to dealing with issues related to computers and technology, most companies spend the vast majority of their time and resources trying to address incidents as they come in. While it is certainly necessary to fix problems as they arise, this is a very reactive approach and should not be your only strategy. In addition to a good incident management system, you should also start working more proactively with a focus on problem management.

What is Problem Management?

Problems become opportunities
Sometimes you need a surgeon to stop using band-aids

Problem management is when a team attempts to discover and address the root cause of a problem rather than simply fixing the symptoms. For example, when someone calls into the technical help desk because their account gets locked out every month, the team will simply unlock the account and the end user can start working again. This is how incident management is handled.

When it comes to problem management, the team may look and find that the help desk is having to unlock dozens of user’s accounts each month. Rather than simply continuing to have the team perform the manual unlocks to get users up and running, the team will try to find ways to prevent the accounts from getting locked in the first place. Some examples of solutions they may implement include things like:

  • Automated Unlock – Having a system where users can unlock their own accounts (with proper security validation of course) will get them working much more quickly and eliminate a lot of work for the help desk.

  • Password Change Reminders – Account locks are often caused when people wait to the last minute to change their password. Adding a reminder that encourages users to change their password before it is required may help to reduce the number of lockouts.

  • Evaluate Password Requirements – Complex passwords are critical for system security, but some companies go overboard. If you have unnecessarily complicated password requirements, it will result in far more lockouts than normal.

The main goal of the problem management team is not just to get individual users back up and running, but to prevent problems from happening in the first place. While it may take longer to come up with this type of solution, it will almost always be worth the effort over time.

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Finding Problems through Incidents

Issue Tracking
Track issues more closely than Legolas tracks orcs across Rohan

While this article is primarily about making sure you have a good problem management system in place, that really cannot be done without a good incident management strategy. This is because most recurring or commonly experienced issues will be discovered through tickets created based off of incidents.

In order to be able to discover problems, it is necessary to document incidents appropriately. For example, the technical help desk should always document the root cause of a problem (when it is available) in the ticket. This will allow the problem management team to generate reports off of these incidents to discover that there is an issue they could address.

Good incident documentation will let you discover when and where a problem exists. If there is a sudden surge in reports of problems related to a specific system, the problem management team can dig into it further to try to figure out what is causing the issue and the best way to prevent it from continuing.

Long Term Savings and Improvements

Problem Management is a long term investment
The future is full of problems and potential. You want to be ready for both.

When reading about problem management strategies, it is easy to see how they can be beneficial. When it comes to implementing them, however, it can be more of a challenge. This is because it almost always takes time and money up front to go through the process, and the savings and improvements are only seen weeks, or even months, down the road.

Companies should look at problem management as a longer-term investment into the future growth and success not only of the technical teams, but the entire organization. Some great examples of problems that you may be dealing with regularly now but could be reduced or eliminated with the right investments in the future:

  • Failing Computer Hardware – If you find that you have a specific computer hardware component that is regularly going bad, it is going to cause lots of problems. In addition to having to replace the component when it breaks, it also results in serious downtime for employees. Investing in replacing all of these components before they fail may actually end up being a smarter move when you factor in purchase prices, downtime, and other factors.

  • Common User Errors – Any type of common user issues should be looked at from the problem management team to see what can be done. Putting in changes or updates to prevent user errors is a great way to get things running more efficiently.

  • Networking Outages – Problems with the network are surprisingly common because these systems are often so complex. Investing in the right hardware and software will reduce administration time and keep people working much more consistently.

  • Technical Employee Turnover – Problem management can look at much more than just system related issues. If you struggle with turnover with your technical employees, for example, a good solution may be to offer continuous education, certification courses, and other benefits that they won’t find elsewhere. Look into how to keep employees with the company is a great option for problem management teams.

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Options for Your Problem Management Team

In an ideal situation a company would have a team that is dedicated to finding problems, researching them, and implementing good solutions that address the root cause. The fact is, however, that many small and medium sized businesses do not have the resources to do this.

A good alternative is to empower your technical help desk team to flag issues they are commonly facing as problems. From there, supervisors or senior technicians can be given a set amount of time each day to perform the function of problem management. This type of strategy is used by many companies with great success since they are able to not only help customers with issues as they come in, but also help push for continued improvement over time.

No matter how you decide to implement it, having a good problem management strategy is well worth the effort. For any company that wants to be constantly improving and remaining competitive, this is essential.

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Michael Levanduski

Author Michael Levanduski

Michael Levanduski is a writer with over 20 years of experience working in the IT industry. He regularly writes for a variety of different publications, providing content on a wide range of different topics, including multiple different niches within the tech field. He lives in West Michigan with his family where he enjoys camping, hiking, and of course, writing.

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