Sunday, March 11, 2012

ITIL Secrets Revealed! Is it an Incident? A Request? A Problem? The definitive answer!

There is no value in arguing the difference between Incidents and Problems. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a clear distinction, just don't waste time arguing the difference. I mean this quite literally: within your organization, spend no more than 10 minutes discussing where you distinguish between Incidents and Problems. Same thing as the difference between Incidents and Requests.

The outpouring of recent discussions, especially on LinkedIn, with protracted discussions about what makes for the "right" distinction between these types of tickets has gotten out of hand. These discussions are exactly what gives ITIL such a bad name. It also goes a long way to reveal why everyone hates the IT department. Honestly, who decided that ITIL says how we MUST define these tickets? Yes, it provides guidance; but there is nothing magical in that guidance. A much better debate is whether it is important to distinguish between the two at all. Even then, what value is created by debating that for a long time?

Ultimately it is far more important that you decide what the distinction between Incidents, Problems, and Requests should be; and communicate that decision consistently and frequently. When defining the difference between Incidents and Requests, for example, I would look at the answers to three questions, in declining order of importance:

  1. What is best for your customer?

  2. What is best for your business? This is really about the metrics you need in order to know whether you are doing what is best for your customer.

  3. What will create the least amount of confusion for your IT staff?

What are your thoughts and experiences? How do you like to determine where an Incident ends and a Request begins?

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