Are you a problem manager?

A new role for the IT department: Problem manager

IT management experts say the time has come to define a new role within the IT department: Problem manager.

"Even if you have full automated IT management, you still need a person that can comprehend dependencies and has the ability to see through the mess to identify and resolve problems that cause recurring incidents," Forrester Research Senior Analyst Evelyn Hubbert writes in a recent report.

Here is a bit more explanation. The problem manager would not be limited to addressing issues within one area of IT, but rather apply his or her knowledge and expertise across domains to prevent recurring issues from cropping up again and again over time.

"The goal of problem management can be seen as simply preventing the recurrence of incidents. Handling problems is quite different from handling incidents, as it is possible that a problem may not be identified until several incidents have occurred over a period of time," reads Forrester Research's report "Problem Manager: A New IT Service Management Role." "It requires some detective work and background analysis, as well as a level of knowledge that may be beyond the individual incident topic area."

According to Forrester Research, IT organizations should start designating a member of their team to be the problem manager as part of larger IT service management strategy, such as those detailed in ITIL. Problem management would involve responding to known issues as they occur, but would also involve being more proactive in nature than, say, incident management which involves IT fixing problems or addressing changes as they arise. Problem management would span various groups within IT such as servers, applications, networks, storage and end-user support.

Because problem management connects to other areas of IT, the problem manager would need to be a liaison of sorts for process improvements around incident, change and configuration management, for instance. A problem manager would be responsible to review trends and take action, but also be able to delegate staff from various IT domains to better support end users and address incidents.

The problem manager isn't the front-line, firefighting IT staffer, Forrester Research says. The problem manager would embrace process and improving efficiencies as well as understand how problems can originate from several incidents and know how to take the steps to prevent reoccurrences, Forrester says.

"People with a natural process orientation instead of firefighting heroes are a good fit for this job," the report reads. "The shift in thinking from firefighting to proactive work is a key shift in resource allocation from the incident management to the problem management process."

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