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Making a change: What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

Making a change: What is the problem you’re trying to solve? June 22, 2020
How to Measure Success using ITIL 4

by Greg Smith

I have led and participated in many ITSM process improvements, and tool implementations. Often during preparatory sessions such as requirements gathering, solutions are presented which seem to address the concern, but would disappoint if implemented as they fail to address the underlying problem.  When this happens, I have found it beneficial to ask “What is the problem you’re trying to solve?” Change enablement means answering this question to help focus the discussion on identifying the requirements that when addressed has the highest chance of delivering the desired outcome.  

Change Enablement team

It’s surprising how often a team does not have a clear vision of the problem and often as the ideas start to flow, there’s a misalignment within the project team.  Without knowing why you’re implementing ITIL 4, a new ITSM tool, the Change Enablement practice, 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(s). Problem statements and solutions should answer: 

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?  
  • Does the solution solve the problem (and/or set the foundation for the future)?  
  • Does the solution introduce any additional problems or considerations? 

Problem statements aren’t just important for successful projects, they are key in delivering any level of improvement.  Take the following example with which I’m all too familiar: 

A client is having an issue with their new outsourced Service Desk provider not populating the “Resolution details” when resolving a ticket. A decision is made 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 doesn’t address the real problem because the problem wasn’t identified and used as a guide for designing the solution.  In this scenario the problem statement might be: “Without relevant details 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 the problem statement is key to validating the solution has addressed the problem and delivering desired outcomes. Without it you’re looking for a needle in a haystack in the dark. 

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