The Difference Between Incident Managment and Problem Management

Incident Management and Problem Management are both key components of the ITIL service model and have been defined and created in an effort to provide a better and more streamlined service to consumers.

ITIL itself stands for the - Information Technology Infrastructure Library - and comprises of the following books:

  1. ITIL Service Strategy 
  2. ITIL Service Design 
  3. ITIL Service Transition 
  4. ITIL Service Operation 
  5. ITIL Continual Service Improvement
Incident Management and Problem Management are both elements of the fourth volume - ITIL Service Operation, which tries to define the best practice for dealing with interruptions to a customers service.

What is an Incident?

An incident is a single - unique - issue impacting one specific customer and their service. While there can be many similar incidents impacting multiple customers, each of them are in their fashion unique and need to be logged and treated as such.

An example of an incident is you losing your home Internet connection. While the underlying root cause could be related to a fiber cut impacting hundreds of houses, your individual issue is one specific incident as it is unique to you. 

What is the objective of the Incident Management team?

The Incident Management team is the group responsible for dealing with your issue. Now they could be called by a variety of different names - Helpdesk, Service Desk, Technical Support Team etc... - there primary role is to get your service restored in as timely a manner as possible. They are basically there to put a "band-aid" on your problem and not necessarily resolve the root cause.

How are Incidents Tracked?

Incidents are tracked and responded to through a variety of different automated and manual tools. The ideal function of the Incident Management team is to resolve the issue before it has an impact to your business/life and they track these issues through a variety of different alarms and monitoring tools.

The worst type of reporting is one in which a manual report is needed. If a customer has been impacted, then in some fashion they have already failed in one of their primary roles!

What is a problem?

In the context of Incident Management, a Problem is one that comprises multiple incidents. If you take into account my previous example of an Internet failure at your home, the problem in this case would be the actual fiber cut which is the root cause of the issue.

As such, this "problem" would have multiple incidents attached to it.

What is Problem Management?

In contrast to Incident Management, Problem Management is a lot more than just slapping a band-aid on an Incident. With Problem Management the underlying root cause of an issue must be discovered and steps taken to ensure that similar issues do not occur in the future. Problem Management is a significantly more involved process and takes quite a bit more time and resources to achieve correctly.
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