What is Problem Management?

Problem management is the set of processes and activities responsible for managing the lifecycle of all problems that could happen in an IT service. It also uses preventative methods to identify underlying causes and prevent problems from occurring. If a problem or incident has already occurred, problem management seeks to prevent them from happening in the future. It also involves identifying the best way to eliminate the root cause. However, if it’s an unavoidable problem, an effective problem management process will help minimize the impact on business. 


To better understand problem management, let’s know the definition of a problem. ITIL defines a problem as “a cause or potential cause of one or more incidents.” On the other hand, an incident is a single unplanned event that causes a service disruption.

Benefits of problem management

When problem management is carried out efficiently, it can have several benefits and can add substantial value to the business, the most substantial of which means minimal to no downtime and disruptions. 

Other benefits of problem management are:

Types of problem management


There are primarily two types of problem management: 

  • Proactive problem management: This aims to identify future incidents and prevent them from re-occurring by identifying and eliminating the root cause before they can cause service-impacting incidents
  • Reactive problem management: This means reacting to recurring incidents by analyzing the root cause and providing a long-term fix. It is crucial to identify these repeating incidents as problems.

Problem management compared with other ITIL processes

Problem management vs incident management

While incident and project management are closely related, they are actually separate.  Incident management constitutes responding to an event that has occurred, minimizing the impact on the business, and restoring service as quickly as possible. Problem management constitutes understanding the root cause of why the event occurred and how to prevent it from happening in the future. It might take multiple incidents before problem management has enough data to analyze what is going wrong and figure out what steps can be taken to correct the situation. This means coordination between incident managers and problem managers is essential.

Problem management vs knowledge management 

As its name suggests, knowledge management involves the creation of a robust knowledge base or repository of materials. If well-executed, this process will ensure that incidents are resolved faster, and overall, there are fewer incidents. 

Problem management vs change management 

ITIL describes change management as the process of tracking and managing a change throughout its entire life cycle, from start to closure, with the aim to minimize risk.

It is only when a change causes disruption and/or downtime that it is analyzed under the incident or problem management processes. 

Problem management vs service request management 

As we know, IT teams receive a number of service requests from their customers/end-users. Whether it is a request for software, application access, new hardware, or password resets, these constitute service requests. Some requests are straightforward and some require additional guidance. This is an integral part of service request management along with setting expectations for employees and also ensuring their satisfaction. 

So, service request management, while related to problem management, is still a different process, unless this service request process causes a disruption. 

The problem management process

What is the role of a problem manager? 

The problem manager is responsible for analyzing incident trends, identifying repeat incidents, and determining where the application of problem-solving efforts will reap the biggest benefits for the organization.

  • Coordination: The problem manager is responsible for coordinating all aspects of problem diagnosis and resolution.
  • Communication: The problem manager maintains an overview of the problem queue, updating the status and keeping the affected stakeholder informed of progress.
  • Facilitation: The problem manager facilitates data collection and analysis, which then leads to a long-term fix for the issue. This ensures a permanent solution is investigated while the incident team minimizes immediate impact.

Problem management best practices 

Learn from past problems and integrate problem management with other modules: By understanding the problems that have occurred in the past and analyzing patterns, it can be ensured that they won’t occur again, thus saving time and resources. Also, integrating problem management with other ITIL modules like change management and incident management allows for information to be in sync and consistent.


Frequently Asked Questions

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