An incident is an unplanned interruption to an IT service or reduction in the quality of an IT service and is strictly a reactive process. A problem on the other hand represents a different perspective of an incident by diagnosing its underlying root cause, which might also be the cause of multiple other incidents. Incidents however do not always grow up to become problems.
While Incident Management activities focus on restoring services to normal operations as quickly as possible, Problem Management activities determine the root cause, find the most effective and efficient permanent resolution and ultimately prevent the incident from happening again.
Problem Management can be both reactive and proactive. Proactive Problem Management identifies weaknesses in the environment before actual incidents occur. These can then be exploited as improvement opportunities. Reactive Problem Management addresses problems that were identified from one or more incidents. The policies for raising a problem from incident trends can be unique to the individual organization. Some common conditions that may engage Problem Management can include
- Trend analysis of recorded incidents detects an underlying problem may exist.
- A notification from a supplier that a problem exists that needs to be resolved.
- Other IT functions identify that a problem condition exists.
- A major incident has occurred where problem management activities need to be undertaken to identify the root cause.
- The service desk may have resolved an incident but cannot determine the definitive root cause and suspects that it may to reoccur.
- Incident management cannot match an incident to existing problems and known errors.
- Analysis of an incident by a support group uncovers the evidence that an underlying problem exists, or is likely to exist.