Jul 15

What is Problem Management – Problem Management an Introduction

A process showing what is problem managementWhat is Problem Management?

This post will answer the question What is Problem Management in a simple and easy to understand way.

Problem Management is the process of managing all Problems to their conclusions. The aim of a problem is to identify the root cause through root cause analysis. Once the root cause has been identified it can be eradicated to avoid a recurrence.

Multiple Problem Management Processes exist that govern the process, ensuring critical success elements are achieved.

What is Problem Management Video explanation

Where Can Problem Management be beneficial?

Problem Management can be useful everywhere!!!

You may not know it but you are already a Problem Manager. When the freezer brakes or the microwave brakes you become a Problem Manager by investigating the root cause. You may review the wiring or bring in specialist resource to investigate but you are the one co-ordinating. You may eventually identify that it had overheated due to not having enough ventilation. You have now identified the root cause and put a fix in place by moving it to a more ventilated location. Problem Identified, investigated, Root Cause established & Fix implemented.

In organisations it is also useful in a number of different scenarios; The most common is in IT faults, where a Problem management process exists to identify root causes of IT faults and implement fixes to avoid them recurring. Another example may be in the complaints team, where they want to identify the causes for their complaints and eradicate them where possible. The Problem Management process is evident in most teams to some extent and as well it should be. It is in common sense terms identifying the cause of an issue and removing it.

So we have hopefully answered the question What is Problem Management, which we now know to be the process of root cause analysis. I think that’s a good start for an introduction.

Review some of the other content to get some further information on What Problem Management is Problem Management processes. or Wikipedia has some good content.

So What Is Problem Management to you?

Leave me a comment and I will respond.

Sep 09

Problem Management Metrics

Problem Management Metrics

What Are Problem Management Metrics?

Problem Management Metrics are a measure of the success of Problem Management. They should incorporate any Problem Management KPIs your organisation uses as well as some further information to show the value that Problem Management has on your organisation.

What are the best Problem Management Metrics?

Problem Management Metrics will include your Problem Management KPIs; you have little choice in this. Other than that I would suggest some of the below are used: -

Board showing Problem Management Metrics evaluation

Incident numbers trended over the last few years: If Problem Management is effective Incident numbers should be reducing year on year*.

Customer Satisfaction: Net promoter score of your customers. This will show if your customers are happy with your service.

Number of Root Causes eradicated: If it is possible to equate this to a monetary value then include the monetary figure.

Ageing Profile of Problems: Ideally Problem records will not last for months and months as focus is given to them.

Trending Information: Top causes of Problems and what is being done to focus on high level causes.
Problem Management Process Messages: Highlighting changes that are talking place to improve the process. No process is perfect and showing constant service improvement is a good thing.

The examples here are not exhaustive. It is important to realise that the Problem Management Metrics are another way to sell Problem Management and the benefits it has to an organisation. It should be accurate, as all Problem Management information is, however also needs to sell Problem Management to the readers.

Problem Management does not get the same positive coverage of its close cousin Incident Management. Every opportunity must be taken to promote Problem Management!

*Assumes no big Change to the organisation or I.T. estate over that period.

What are the Worst Problem Management Metrics?

Displays Problem Management Metrics tickThe worst Problem Management Metrics are ones that ask many questions and provide no answers. Or put a different way, the worst Problem Management Metrics are ones that show Problem Management in a bad light.

What I am not suggesting is that you should fiddle the Problem Management Metrics. What I am suggesting is that the Metrics be given careful consideration to ensure they are relevant to the particular organisation.

For example you may use ‘time to fix implemented’ in you Problem Management Metrics. If you have a simple process and I.T. organisation then this may be a good metric, as on average you achieve fix implemented in 5 days. This vs. an industry standard in excess of 30 days looks positive. If on the other hand it takes 6 months to implement a fix as all fixes need to be implemented in a half yearly Change then this might not be a good metric. On the other hand this may be the perfect metric if you are trying to drive your organisation into a more agile Change process…

No right or wrong here, just be sure to give it some thought as they will be with you for a while. The suggestion being that Problem Management Metrics be produced on a regular interval weekly, monthly, bi monthly, etc. and the metrics used should not change (too frequently).

How to Display Problem Management Metrics

This depends very much on the organisational culture and also on other Problem Management communications. I would urge you to keep all Problem Management communications to a similar format where possible, create a Brand!
The suggestion would be to have a summary of all the key metrics on the first page including brief commentary as required. The subsequent pages will be adding additional detail to the information provided on the summary page. This should include visual representation of the figures such as graphs to easily show the trend of the metrics over a period of time and detailed commentary.

How to Communicate Problem Management Metrics

Problem Management Metrics should be issued in a format that cannot be changed. As it is Problem Management branded no unauthorised amendments should be allowed otherwise it may compromise the integrity of the document and the Problem Management Brand.

Once the document has been changed to a format that cannot be edited it can be made available in many different ways dependent on the organisation. Most will display the information on an Intranet and notify stakeholders the information is available
This document should be read. It is written in a way to promote Problem Management and give the customer information that interests them. Be proud of the document and do not be afraid to market it. Create a distribution list and send it to the CIO & CEO, if you have an organisation forum or wall board then post your Problem Management Metrics there. If you do not feel comfortable marketing your metrics then you have not created a good Problem Management Metrics pack and should revisit it.

What do you include in your Problem Management Metrics?

Thanks for reading – Please share and like this post using the buttons provided – It makes a difference!

The Problem Manager

♠ Maintaining Quality In Problem ManagementVisual represntation of Problem Management Metrics

 ♠ Problem Management Software Reviewed

♠ Use Pareto Analysis to become more efficient


Sep 01

Root Cause Analysis Example – No Hot Water

Root Cause Analysis Example – No Hot Water

Problem Management and root cause analysis go hand in hand and are used in everyday life. As I have mentioned several times everyone is a Problem Manager and everyone performs root cause analysis frequently. I expect daily for the most part.

So today I wanted to highlight a real world Root Cause Analysis Example that happened to me recently.

No Hot Water Root Cause Analysis Example

During summer seemed like a good time to add an extra radiator to the house and move some existing ones to more convenient locations. So I commissioned a plumber to come in and do the work. After the work was completed a visual inspection was carried out and all looked good, including the central heating system working as designed.

Later that evening I ran my wife a hot relaxing bath, or so I thought. A scream from the bathroom and I am faced with an angry wife that has stepped into a freezing cold bath. No hot Water!

What do you do now? An initial assessment, see if a workaround is available? Seek additional expertise?

Root Cause Analysis Example questionsAn Initial assessment:
Q: Is there hot water at other locations throughout the house?
A: No hot water in any of the house.

Q: Is the boiler working correctly?
A: No, error lights showing.

Q: Can the boiler be fixed easily?
A: No, a quick inspection and several resets suggests not.

Q: Is a workaround available for the impact (wife being unable to wash)?
A: several, most appealing is a shower (not attached to central heating system).

Identifying the Root Cause of No Hot Water

In this Root Cause Analysis Example several steps have already been taken to identify the cause of the issue and apply a viable workaround. Sounds like classic Problem Management and root cause analysis to me. You could argue a little bit of Incident Management thrown in there as well. What can I say I perform the whole Service Management Package, don’t even get me started on the public relations side of this fiasco to get me back in the wife’s good books…

Now to perform some root cause analysis (common sense)

Root Cause Analaysis Example queriesQ: Has anything changed recently?
A: Yes Two radiators were moved and a third was added to the central heating system.
Q: Could this have caused the impact seen?
A: Yes, the radiators connect to the central heating system that provides hot water as well as heating.
Q: What is the likely cause of the fault?
A: A water flow issue of some kind.

In this root cause analysis example we have narrowed down the likely cause to a water flow issue in the central heating system. The most likely cause of the water flow issue is at the areas that work was taking place. However it may also be possible to identify a flow issue at the boiler itself, without having to perform any intrusive works.
A further review of the boiler confirms that the system has low pressure. I can restore the pressure but will that have any adverse effects? Now I know why I could not make my wife a bath, but I do not know why the central heating system lost pressure, causing the impact it did. Still further root cause analysis required…

Root Cause Analysis Example Digging Deeper – Central Heating lost pressure

Root Cause Analysis Example of a broken pipeAt this stage I have learnt a lot about the issue in a relatively short period of time. Now I have identified that the issue is likely caused due to the Change work performed on my radiators I called the plumber who performed the work.

The plumber suggested the likely cause was a leak in the system. The leak was most likely where the work had been performed. The plumber confirmed he would be around in the next 24 hours to correct the issue. As I was not in desperate need of the central heating system or hot water I agreed and performed no further investigations into the specific cause.

I like to think this is where I become more of a Problem Manager. Bringing in additional technical expertise to identify the root cause and correct it. The plumber attended my house the next day and identified a lose pipe fitting, which he promptly corrected. He also rechecked all other pipes at my request to ensure he had made no other mistakes.

Root Cause Analysis Example Conclusion

In this Root Cause Analysis Example the cause was human error. The plumber made a mistake and did not fit a section of pipe correctly. Hopefully he will learn from this mistake, analyse the root cause of this failure and put steps in place to eradicate it. And so it continues the never ending process of root cause analysis.

Thanks for reading. Have you performed any interesting root cause analysis recently?

Please like and share this content. It makes a difference!

The Problem Manager

Read some other articles below:

♠ What Is Problem Management    ♠ Root Cause Example – Low Traffic   ♠ Best Key Performance Indicators


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