Is incident/problem management your personal problem ? Here are five keys to help you understand a bit more what most of people consider it as « the first step to ITIL implementation ».

1 - Maturity indicator

Most of the time, incident management is the first process that is set up within IT. Cause we think (badly) it will be easier as IT already knows the job. By the way, incident and problem allow you to do a simple test to have an overview of your ITIL maturity : get 10 IT person and ask them what are the differences between an incident and a problem. Regarding the answers you will see if your process is understood or not. 

Here are some possible answers : 

  • « I don’t know » : you should start the job !
  • « One problem is a breakdown, an incident is… also a breakdown ! But is is worst » : good start, continue the job.
  • « Incident are for the first support line and problem area for the second support line » : you started the job ! Do some awareness and it will be ok.
  • « A problem is an unsolved incident » : still some work to do.
  • « A problem is an iterative incident » : almost good, you can go through next process !
  • « A problem is the underlying cause of one or more incidents. An incident is a service business degradation » : are your all ITIL experts ?

 2 - Unhappy technicians

First of all you must understand that an IT technician or engineer is someone who love solving puzzles, then tell to the world how the job has been done. Give a riddle to a technician : he will spend all the week to find a clue. His tenacity is so strong he will also spend his free time to solve it. Unfortunately, this approach does not fit with incident management as it is described in ITIL. The framework tells us the objective of incident management is to restore normal service as soon as possible. The technical aspect is of little importance… So, such situation frustrates most of the technicians. Put them in your Service Desk, and you will have unhappy technician that will leave soon.

 3 - Problem management as a part time job

A classical issue on problem management is to consider it as a side activity of incident management. And when I write « side activity » I mean « minor activity ». In the real world, problem management is the process that will let you exit of the « firemen way of life » and get back control on your infrastructure. But, to make it work you should put some resources on the table. The worse you can do would be to name a technician half a day a week as problem manager. The good practice is to name a full time problem manager with some technicians to solve problems.

 4 - Incident management true objective

Many people think incident management objective is to solve incidents. That is wrong. The main objective is to restore normal service as soon as possible. You must understand that ITIL is focused on a business approach : IT role is to support the business. So, even if technical aspect is still very present, it isnot themain goal. In incident management we do not care about what trigger the incident, we only focus on how we can help the user to continue his work as soon as possible.

 5 - True differences between incident and problem management

The best way to understand the real dichotomy between incident and problem management is to compare them to a human body and a disease. The incident is the symptom and the problem is the illness…

We are in winter, it’s freezing, you are sick. You have a temperature, you have a runny nose, pain in the thro

at. All of those symptoms are incident that you will manage :

  • temperature : pain killer
  • pain in the throat : sirup
  • Nose : spray

And you feel better ! But you are still sick. So you will go and see the doctor who will diagnose an angina and prescribe antibiotics.

Let’s sum up. The pain in the throat is a symptom. It is an incident. You will manage it to remove the negative effects : it is incident management. But, to avoid the incident to occur, then you will manage the angina, which is the problem. Once the problem solved, you will have no more incidents. So, you understand it is two processes that works in parallels :

  • Incident management handles the negative effect on a degraded situation
  • Problem management ensures the incidents will not occur.


I hope you enjoyed this overview on incident and problem management. If you wish to contact me you can post a comment or mail me at :


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