A Guide to ITIL Incident and Problem Management

A guide to ITIL 4 incident and problem management

The ITIL 4 Incident and Problem Management process comprises various tasks. It address problem management in all types and sizes of businesses. But it turns out many, if not most, of those tasks, fall short of the accepted definition of true proactive problem management. Implementing ITIL incident and problem management can help overcome this challenge.

IT Problem Management: What it is and is not

The IT Process Wiki says, “Problem Management aims to manage the lifecycle of all problems. This ITIL process aims to prevent incidents and minimize the impact of those that cannot be prevented. Proactive problem management analyzes incident records and uses data collected by other IT service management processes to identify trends or significant problems.”

(See, “Our take on making modifications to the ITIL® v4”)

Unfortunately, in too many organizations, there’s insufficient clarity about the things that distinguish problems from incidents. This confusion has been a challenge to IT managers and support providers since before there was an ITIL. According to the folks at leading IT training provider Global Knowledge, the distinction remains challenging today. Here’s how they attempt to sort it out.


According to ITIL 4, the latest version of the ITIL best practices guidelines, an incident “is an unplanned interruption to a service, or reduction in the quality of service. In layman’s terms, an incident is the representation of an outage.


A problem, as defined in ITIL 4, “is a cause, or potential cause, of one or more incidents. In layman’s terms, a problem represents the cause or potential cause of one or more outages.”

The goal of management, especially proactive problem management, is not just to resolve an incident. It is to identify and resolve each incident’s root cause. The aim is to learn from the experience to reduce the occurrence and recurrence of incidents and problems.

The phases in ITIL 4 incident management

  1. Preparation: Effective incident response amounts to sharp preparation. Developing IR policies based on research and experience, defining communication channels and guidelines, and recognizing the threat-detection capability of the organization could be part of the preparation phase of incident management under ITIL v4 incident management.
  2. Detect and report: While it is crucial to recognize your threat-detection capabilities, the next step will be to develop contingencies to detect a threat. Continuous monitoring could be a good way to detect threats based on patterns. Classifying and reporting the threats, and generating alerts is a good starting point.
  3. Prioritizing: The classification of threats will help you develop appropriate responses based on their impact and urgency. It will also help ready the channel for the next step.
  4. Escalation: As per the requirement, incidents can be escalated to higher levels for mitigation.

Proactive problem management: An elusive goal

Every IT estate can benefit from truly proactive management of problems. However, achieving that goal can be daunting, if not impossible for some IT teams. For many reasons, you and your team may just be too busy putting out fires to devote efforts and resources to fireproofing your environment. 

Common obstacles can include a shortage or lack of skilled, experienced people, broken processes, inadequate or improperly implemented technologies, or combinations of any or all of these.

Ironically, the more difficult proactive management of problems is to achieve and maintain, the more needed it is likely to be. If your team is consumed by reactively dealing with incidents and problems, proactive problem management may seem unattainable. 

Fortunately, there are specific things you and your team can do to move closer to that important goal, starting as soon as today.

Virima participated in a webinar titled “The problems with your IT problem management – and how to solve them” where this topic was discussed in more detail. Follow the link to the webinar and learn how to ensure your IT people, processes, and technologies are adequately prepared to deliver proactive problem management.

Virima: Your partner for comprehensive IT management

Now, Virima can help to improve IT incident and problem management, as well as IT Asset Management (ITAM), IT Service Management (ITSM), and IT Operations Management (ITOM), across your organization’s entire IT estate. 

Virima solutions can automatically discover and map your critical IT resources and the interconnections that link them to one another, your applications and services, and your users. They also produce useful, actionable reports about your IT environment, reports that can help you identify and resolve incidents before they become disruptive problems. 

Virima is here to help. To get started, contact us today to schedule a demo and explore the possibilities!

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