Problem Manager

Colin Rudd

Published by

BCS

ISBN

9781780172378

RRP

£19.99

Reviewed by

Michael Hall CITP, Problem management expert

Score

8 out of 10

Problem managerOne in a series on service management roles, this book aims to set out an introduction to what a problem manager is and does. At this level, it serves it purpose well, but it also contains a wealth of information for anyone interested in problem management as a function.

It starts with a short introduction to the subject of problem management, then chapter 3 covers the role in some detail. This first part of the book, together with chapter 5 on career progression, is probably all you need to get a good, if somewhat ITIL-centric, view of what being a problem manager is all about. If this is what you are after, you could stop there and be well satisfied.

The contrast between incident management and problem management is explained very clearly and I particularly liked the section on key attributes, knowledge and skills. The roles and responsibilities part is where it gets very ITIL-centric, which loses me somewhat, especially by not mentioning senior management or the customer. However, the chapter is rescued again by talking about the interfaces and interactions problem management has with the other functions, as this topic is covered clearly and in sufficient detail to be a useful guide to thinking about how to make these interactions work effectively.

Chapter 4 is by far the largest - about two-thirds of the book - and covers tools, methods and techniques. Although of necessity a brief review, this is a good reference for any problem manager. It covers a couple of frameworks I have not seen before personally, while omitting some other very effective techniques. This is to be expected, as no single book has the space to cover this expansive field, but it is worth owning this book just for this section.

I would have liked to see some more ‘doing’ in the implementation section, together with some mention of acquiring skills in problem solving and how to go about getting the engagement with the technical resolver groups up and running. If the level of discussion of quick wins - step 6 - was used for the other steps, this section would have been much more useful and practical.

I have two major criticisms in terms of content. Firstly, there seems to be some confusion about major incidents and problems. The author appears to be making a case for problem managers to mainly run major incidents, especially crises. This takes them away from their primary job of investigating and fixing underlying causes. Shouldn’t it be the incident manager or service manager’s job to run major incidents? Is there an implication that these roles lack the necessary skills and experience to do this? I cannot decide.

Secondly, there is an emphasis on major problem reviews, which I thought were what you did after a problem investigation is completed (cause found and fixed) to see if there are any process improvements that could be made. The book talks about MPR as when the body of the problem investigation happens - why incidents occurred, how they could be prevented in future. This whole section needs to be read carefully to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions. What the author is talking about is the actual problem management process in action, not some after-the-event activity.

The short section on proactive problem management is a useful introduction to the subject and the book concludes with some worthwhile case studies.

Anyone interested in problem management should own a copy of this book. The information is valuable and worthy of close study, even if some parts should be read with one eyebrow raised.

Recommended.

Further information: BCS

December 2014