Problem Management and Incident Management: Related but Different

Problem Management and Incident Management: Related but Different

We often hear the question: “What is the difference between Incident Management and Problem Management?” To make it less confusing, even for those of you familiar with ITIL, think of Incident Management as a superhero that saves the day and Problem Management as a detective that gathers evidence to solve a case.

Incident Management

Those of you that provide incident support to customers may not feel like superheroes but to your customers that’s often what you are.

A common scenario for incident management starts with a user of an application, device or service. Something that worked yesterday doesn’t work today. They report the issue and then a service technician is assigned to help. S/he troubleshoots the issue with the goal of getting the user up and running.  Sometimes a work around will fix the issue. As a customer, we may not care how it was fixed, just that it works again.

Once service has been restored the issue is considered resolved. The superhero saved the day, but they may not have discovered the root cause of the issue.

Problem Management

This is where the detective work takes place. Known as root cause analysis, the investigation and diagnosis are performed and tracked.

Problem tickets can be worked by the same team that did the incident management, but more likely it is an escalation team of engineers or others with the detective skill set. The goal is to identify and fix the root cause of the issue to prevent additional incidents from occurring. This improves overall quality and customer satisfaction.

Root cause analysis doesn’t need to take place after every incident. When a defect is suspected or there appears to be a trend in incidents, a closer look into the problem could be warranted.

ServiceNow and Problem Management

If you have ServiceNow IT Service Management, there are features that make incident and problem management work well together.

For example, you can create a problem from an incident and have the pertinent data populated over to the new problem. Using this method, the problem and incident become related records.

While a problem is waiting for a fix, it can be marked as a known error, which can be helpful to the incident management team. They can view and search the known error problems and use the work around or other information as part of their incident troubleshooting.

If more incidents are reported for the same problem, you can add the additional incidents to the existing problem. This allows you to see the impact one problem is having. When problems need to be escalated this enables you to articulate the impact.

When you add comments to a problem to document a work around or provide an update on the analysis, you can trigger an action which adds the comment to all of the related incidents. This can be done so that it writes to work notes for the assigned internal staff or to the customer via visible comments. If your instance is configured to send notifications when comments are updated, this feature provides a quick and easy way to send communications.  Another time-saving feature is to have the related open incidents change to resolved when you close the problem record.

All of these are options, so please check your instance for your specific implementation. For best practices or help in updating or implementing Problem Management reach out to a member of our team.


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