Support Centers Contribute Value with Problem Management


by Roy Atkinson
December 14, 2016

While it is generally not the support center’s job to perform root cause analysis (RCA), the detection and referral of problems is an important way in which support contributes to the overall improvement of any organization’s IT environment. The detection, analysis, and removal of problems improves the delivery of services.

According to the newly published book, Problem Management: A Practical Guide, the service desk (a.k.a., the support center) is one of the primary sources of problem detection (p.40):

  • There is an incident for which the root cause is not known
  • The service desk suspects an incident may recur after initial resolution
  • Analysis of an incident by a technical support group reveals a potential underlying problem

As we know, both incidents and problems cause interruptions of work. This means lost time; people can’t be productive if their technology is not working properly. Lost time means lost money to a business and sometimes very large amounts of it.

Did you know that HDI offers Problem Management Professional training and certification?

A reduction in lost time should be the goal of every IT organization, and one of the ways to demonstrate it is by tracking the number of incidents over time. In my SupportWorld post, Metrics: Why Measure Incidents and Requests Separately?, I point out, “Incidents are the report card of IT.” If more things are breaking each month, IT is getting into serious trouble. If, on the other hand, the problem management process is producing results, it’s likely that the overall health of IT is improving. The support center should:

  • Return people to work by resolving incidents correctly and as quickly as possible
  • Refer problems or suspected problems to problem management
  • Assist the problem management process as needed
  • Refer to the known error database and use current workarounds
  • Measure and track incidents and requests separately

Last year, 10 percent of non-outsourced support centers saw a reduction in the total number of tickets. In the same period, 31 percent of outsourced support centers saw a reduction. The same reason for the reduction was cited by 73 percent of those outsourced support centers: problem management.

If senior management asks for a demonstration of the support center’s value to the organization, wouldn’t, “We were able to contribute substantially to a 15 percent reduction in lost time” be a great answer?

HDI survey data for 2016 shows that slightly fewer than half of support centers have adopted problem management. If yours isn’t one of them, now is a good time to start.


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): incident management, problem management, support center, supportworld, business value

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