We recently sat down with Jim Bolton and Buff Scott III—problem management experts, HDI course instructors, and authors of Problem Management: A Practical Guide for an enlightening interview.
Let’s start with the basics. What is problem management and why is it so important in today’s technical support?
Problem management is one of two IT service management processes we refer to as “service resolution and restoration” processes. The other is incident management. While incident management is focused on restoring normal IT service operation as quickly as possible, problem management focuses on determining the root cause, identifying temporary workarounds, and applying permanent fixes so that incidents don't happen again. But it’s more than simply restoring and applying permanent fixes—it’s about providing a reliable and stable IT infrastructure that is core to a successful business.
What percentage of tech support organizations would you estimate have formal problem management processes?
The short answer is not enough. Research shows that problem management is not performed at all, or is merely “under development” in just 51% of IT organizations surveyed. Through our interactions with tech support leaders, it always comes up as one of their top 5 challenges. In fact, at a recent HDI Forum meeting, less than 20% of attendees indicated that they have achieved a level 2.0 process maturity which is defined as a “capable problem management process.”
What do you think are the biggest benefits to support centers who’ve implemented a problem management process?
Instead of seeing the support center as a “cost center,” the business starts using words like trusted partner, business enabler, and strategic service provider. But the most resounding and impactful benefits always come back to: higher availability and reliability of IT services, higher productivity of the users and IT staff, increased customer satisfaction, improved management information reporting, reduction in incident volume, improved first call resolution, and better utilization and allocation of IT support staff.
What inspired you to write Problem Management: A Practical Guide?
Years back we asked Ron Muns, founder of HDI, the secret to his success. His response was simple yet profound: “listen to customer needs and then deliver a service to satisfy those needs.” That really resonated, and we used that advice to develop a problem management training that directly addressed our customers’ needs. Then, in 2013, HDI approached us to partner with them in developing problem management training that resulted in the HDI Problem Management Professional certification course. The overwhelmingly positive response caught the eye of TSO, the publishers of the ITIL® books, and they approached us about writing a book for the International Best Practice Portfolio. Released in October 2016 and available on Amazon in hard copy and digital formats, the book is aligned to the HDI Problem Management Professional course with additional guidance and, of course, our “secret sauce.”
What would you say to someone considering the HDI Problem Management Professional certification training?
The IT industry is experiencing a fundamental shift in emphasis from efficient utilization of resources (restore service quickly), to the effective realization of business outcomes (fix and prevent). Problem management is not optional for an IT organization. It’s fundamental to demonstrating business value and to addressing tightening budgets and resource constraints. The HDI Problem Management Professional certification course is intended for those who wish to gain a working knowledge of industry best practices related to problem management. It’s ideal for IT professionals who are working or are planning to work within problem management, whether in a technical, managerial, or operational role.