In the dynamically changing landscape of IT services, the one constant is the unpredictable nature of problems that can arise. Whether you are from an IT background or not, understanding the problem management process is essential. This guide elucidates the various stages of the problem management process in an easy-to-understand manner.

What is Problem Management?

In a nutshell, problem management is a systematic approach to identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems to prevent future incidents. This strategy can be reactive, where actions are taken post-incident, or proactive, focusing on preventing incidents before they occur. Let’s delve deeper into the activities, methods, and techniques involved in problem management.

Stages of Problem Management

1. Problem Detection

Reactive Triggers

  • Service Desk Alerts: The service desk may notice recurring incidents or potential major problems.
  • Technical Support Analysis: A deep dive into an incident can sometimes unveil underlying issues.
  • Automated Detection: Infrastructure or application faults are identified through automated systems, highlighting the need for a problem record.
  • Supplier Notifications: Suppliers or contractors could raise a flag about existing problems.

Proactive Triggers

  • Incident Analysis: Analyzing past incidents to identify potential underlying causes.
  • Trend Analysis: Investigating historical data to pinpoint patterns and underlying causes.
  • Service Quality Enhancement: Initiatives to improve service quality can sometimes unearth areas requiring further investigation.

2. Problem Logging

Here, all pertinent details about the problem are documented, creating a historical record that includes user and service details, incident descriptions, and actions taken till that point.

3. Problem Categorization

Problems are classified similarly to incidents, facilitating easier tracking and management of the issues based on their nature and impact.

4. Problem Prioritization

This stage involves assigning a priority level to the problem, considering various factors such as impact, urgency, and severity.

5. Problem Investigation and Diagnosis

A crucial phase where specialists attempt to find the root cause of the problem, utilizing various problem-solving techniques and tools at their disposal. The aim is to find a resolution aligned with the problem’s priority level.

6. Workarounds

Sometimes, temporary solutions or “workarounds” are developed to bypass the problem temporarily while a permanent solution is sought.

7. Raising a Known Error Record

In cases where a workaround or root cause is identified, a known error record is created, which gets stored in a special database known as the Known Error Database (KEDB).

8. Problem Resolution

Upon finding a solution, necessary changes are implemented to resolve the problem permanently, adhering to change management protocols and considering the business impacts.

9. Problem Closure

Once the problem is resolved, the problem record is closed with all details updated correctly, reflecting the resolution status and actions taken.

10. Major Problem Review

For significant problems, a comprehensive review is undertaken to understand what went right, what went wrong, and how to prevent such incidents in the future. Insights from this review can be a vital learning tool for the organization.


Whether you are an IT veteran or a non-IT individual, understanding problem management is beneficial. It offers a structured pathway to address and prevent issues, enhancing service quality and ensuring customer satisfaction. Armed with this knowledge, you can better appreciate the intricacies involved in maintaining a robust IT service framework.

References: ITIL Service Operation, 2011 edition, ISBN 9780113313075