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Problem Management – Prevention is better than the cure

This blog addresses how you can save a significant amount of time and money by carrying out effective problem management.
An image presenting the "Toot Cause" phrase under cardboard sheet.

The Department of Health estimates that 70 per cent of the NHS budget is spent on long-term conditions, yet it is estimated that only four per cent of the total healthcare budget is spent on prevention. It’s generally accepted amongst the medical community that prevention and effective management of long-term conditions is more cost effective than treating the illness as it occurs. In a world where the demands on the NHS are set to increase exponentially, where new and expensive treatments are constantly being developed, and where the economy is going to find it more difficult to fund the cost of curing an older population, now more than ever, is prevention the best form of treatment. 

So, what, you may be asking yourself, has the NHS got to do with the running of an IT department. Well the parallels are there if you take the time and opportunity to step back and look. We are too often looking at and treating the symptoms, rather than the cause, and as a result have to spend a significant amount of time and money dealing with the consequences. 

Take a simple example. How much are password resets costing your business in time and effort, both from the perspective of a user who is locked out of their systems and the service desk engineer who is required to unlock the account? How long until you are woken in the middle of the night by an irate C Level exec demanding to know why they have been locked out of their email? 

Yes, it’s an obvious example, and you are probably already doing something to address it. But, as part of your on-going run function, how effective is the solution you’ve put in place, and has it really solved the issue? 

Take a more extreme example.  You are woken in the middle of the night (always in the middle of the night!), by another C Level executive who wants to know why your business-critical systems have all suddenly gone offline. Having managed the Major Incident through, it turns out that one of your two data centres had failed, but for some reason the resiliency hadn’t kicked in and kept services running. Further digging into the issue, you find that virtual servers in the secondary data centre had been having issues and, as a workaround, engineers had been moving them to the primary data centre, thus breaking data centre resilience. This was then exacerbated by servers in the primary data centre shutting down due to overheating, an issue that people were aware of but worked round by running fans to try and lower the temperature. 

You might be looking at this example thinking, it’s obvious, this should never have happened, there is no way that the overheating servers shouldn’t have been dealt with, and resiliency shouldn’t have been broken between the two data centres. But this is a real example, although somewhat exaggerated for effect, and there was a major business outage that took days to recover from.  

In both cases the symptoms were being treated, but weren’t being recognised as being an indicator of a more serious event, which, as a result, eventually manifested itself and caused a major business incident. 

A significant proportion of companies will have implemented ITIL as their IT Service Management framework of choice, but, operationally, they will be focusing on incident, change and request management, not their unloved sibling, problem management.  

It’s a properly implemented Problem Management function that can identify and address the trends and underlying root causes of issues, preventing Major Incidents, as opposed to the sticking plasters of workarounds that ultimately hide symptoms and lead to unexpected major disruptive events. 

ITIL states that “The primary objectives of problem management are to prevent problems and resulting incidents from happening, to eliminate recurring incidents, and to minimize the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented.”.  

Of all the major ITIL processes, the investment of time and resources in truly effective Problem Management can provide some of the highest returns for an IT department, underlying that old adage that “Prevention is better than cure”. 

If you would like to find out how iCore can help you with Problem Management, then contact us on 0207 868 2405 or email info@icore-ltd.com