Top attributes (skills and traits) to consider when hiring a Problem Manager
Not everyone has the skillset and mindset to be a good problem solver. Problem-solving takes a specific mentality and an ability to think critically about the issues at hand. A good problem solver is a good thinker. He or she does not become emotionally involved in the issues he or she is addressing. He or she will use a mixture of intuition and logic to determine a solution. Here are some of the top traits to consider when hiring a problem manager:
1. Curiosity about how processes, systems, etc. work
Problem management is a key process in the ITIL® framework and it isn’t surprising most organizations place their problem managers within their service management organization. This gives them strong influence over service-management-governance processes and fosters deep collaboration with incident and change management functions.
2. Ability to handle ambiguity
Problems are not always clear. Many red herrings will appear during a successful resolution process. A good problem manager will be able to recognize these and carefully assess them before dedicating time to research possible dead-ends. He or she understands many situations are not always what they seem and will always seek confirmation before investing in a course of action.
3. Experience in evaluating trade-offs
Often, there is no perfect solution to a problem, fixing one issue may cause another. A problem manager must be able to assess the best solution for the business and understand the organization may need to accept the lesser of two evils. Being able to determine which is the lesser is the mark of a good problem solver.
4. An understanding of opportunity cost
Frequently, there will be more than one solution to a problem. An experienced problem manager will be able to assess which solution will provide the best opportunities for the organization, and what it lost by not selecting other options. The problem manager must be able to articulate the opportunity cost clearly to allow the business to select the best of multiple options.
5. Experience/training in risk-management techniques
Risk management is an important part of the problem manager’s role. He or she must be able to assess quickly the risks of taking no action or implementing any number of possible solutions. He or she must be able to identify the risks clearly and define the mitigating and corrective actions to be taken to minimize the risk to the business.
6. Data and statistical analysis experience
A problem manager will be spending much time looking at statistics, analyzing incident queues and repeat calls. There is much more to prioritizing the problem queue than the number of calls logged for one problem. The problem manager must look at the cost to the business of each outage, the disruption to the customer, the damage to reputation and the effects on financial performance. He or she will then have to weigh these statistics against the cost of providing a solution to the problem.
Measuring Problem Manager Value and Performance (metrics)
Percentage of problems with an identified Root Cause
One of the basic statistics for assessing the efficiency of the problem-management capability in an organization is how many of the problems added to the queue have an identified root cause. Identifying the root cause does not mean it has been fixed, or even it will be fixed, but it is a starting point to assess the value of further work to determine the viability of creating a permanent fix for the problem.
Risk – Evaluation of Problems
Not every problem is likely to recur or to cause significant issues if it does. Assessing each identified problem for the risk it presents to the organization is one of the first steps in the prioritization process. A problem that has a minimal risk, reputationally or financially, will almost always be lower on the list of priorities than a problem with a higher risk.
Prioritization of fixes
After the risk assessment has been completed on identified problems, this information can be used, with the estimated cost of providing a permanent fix, to prioritize the problem queue for resolution. This is a balancing act a good problem manager will do daily to utilize the available resources that provide the best value to the organization.
ROI of recommendations
Providing a long-term fix for a problem can be an expensive exercise. Calculating the return on investment for this work is a critical part of the problem manager’s role. He or she must be able to articulate clearly the benefits vs. the cost of each of his or her recommendation. Ultimately, the business will use this information to make decisions based on which fixes provide the best returns to the organization.
The interval of time from when an incident is first reported to the implementation of a long-term fix is a key efficiency measurement. A good problem manager will identify incidents quickly, assessing them and prioritizing them for action. The faster the problem-management process is executed, the less the risk exposure and potential impact to the organization.