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I have led and participated in many ITSM process improvements, and tool implementations. During these requirement gathering sessions, the team presents solutions. While they seem to address the concern, they’d disappoint if implemented without the definition of a key success factor.  Until you can answer “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”, it’s difficult to focus the discussion on identifying the success criteria and requirements which when fulfilled will deliver the desired outcome.

Problem Statements

It’s surprising how often a team does not have a clear vision of the problem. As a result, as the ideas start to flow, there’s a misalignment within the project team.  Without knowing why you’re implementing Change Enablement, a new ITSM tool, or an updated form, how will you measure success?  To have a successful implementation or improvement, the team must have a clear and aligned view of the problem statement. Problem statements and solutions should answer:

  • What is the problem we’re trying to solve?
  • Does the proposed Solution solve the problem (and/or set the foundation for the future)?
  • Does the Solution introduce any additional risks or considerations?

Problem statements aren’t just important for successful projects, they are key in delivering any level of improvement.  Take the following common example:

ITSM Process Scenario

A client has an issue with their new outsourced Service Desk provider not documenting “Resolution details” when resolving a ticket. They decide to make the field required. Now that the Service Desk is required to populate the field, they do so by entering “done”, “resolved”, or “fixed.” This obviously isn’t what the client expected or needs, but without a Problem Statement, they’re not sure what to do next.

In this scenario the solution isn’t successful. The problem wasn’t identified and used as a guide for designing the solution.  In this scenario the problem statement might be: “Without complete and relevant information in the ‘Resolution details’ field, we lack sufficient information for reporting, incident analysis and trending as well as knowledge article creation.” 

Proposed solutions need to address each aspect of the statement to ensure the desired outcome. Potential solutions might still make the field mandatory, but also include training the Service Desk on the importance and use of the details captured, identify any difficulties they have in populating the field or knowing what level of details to add, as well as random ticket reviews to identify adherence and training opportunities.

At the beginning and throughout each project, implementation, or improvement, your team needs to ask, “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”.  Understanding and agreeing to the problem statement is key to ensuring the solution is addressing the problem and delivering the desired outcomes. Without it you’re looking for a needle in a haystack in the dark.

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