Creating and managing problem investigations in Smart IT
BMC Remedy with Smart IT is integrated with BMC Remedy Problem Management to to provide a comprehensive framework for creating and managing problem investigations on desktop and mobile devices. With Problem Management you can initiate new problem investigations, perform root cause analysis, define known errors, relate problem investigations to other ticket types, and create knowledge articles. The goal of problem management is to to reduce number and impact of incident requests.
Overview of the problem management process
Problem investigations follow a well-defined process. This process is initiated and managed by the problem coordinator, and relies on the participation of a team of assignees and specialists. A typical problem management process consists of the following steps:
- Performing the incident request review
- Creating the problem investigation
- Performing a root-cause analysis
- Identifying changes
- Closing or reassigning problem investigations
Performing the incident request review
The Problem Management process usually begins with an incident request review, which the problem coordinator performs at regularly scheduled intervals. During the review, the problem coordinator analyzes incident request information to identify problems with the services they are responsible for.
Creating the problem investigation
If the problem coordinator finds an incident request for which a problem investigation already exists, they relate that incident request to the existing problem investigation. When a new problem is identified, the problem coordinator creates a problem investigation and relates it to the corresponding incident requests. The problem coordinator then assigns the problem investigation to a specialist who has the appropriate combination of skills, availability, and access rights to perform a root cause analysis.
Problem investigations can also be triggered by other processes. For example, a service desk specialist can create a problem investigation if they think that an incident request was caused by an underlying problem. Emergency changes as well as periodic availability management and capacity management reviews can also trigger problem investigations.
Performing a root-cause analysis
When a problem investigation is assigned to a specialist for root cause analysis, the specialist looks for a temporary workaround to restore the affected service. If the specialist implements a workaround, they add information about it to the problem investigation record. This helps other specialists resolve future incidents caused by the problem until a permanent, or "structural," solution is implemented. Next, the specialist looks for the root cause of the problem. The specialist can also create a known error related to the problem investigation. If the specialist finds a root cause, they update the Root Cause, Workaround, and Resolution fields of the problem investigation as appropriate.
If the specialist thinks that a change is required to permanently work around or remove the root cause, they inform the problem coordinator that the change coordinator must be included in the analysis. Otherwise, the specialist implements the preferred structural solution. If the specialist cannot find the root cause or cannot propose a structural solution, the specialist adds the reason to the problem investigation record. Regardless of whether a structural solution is proposed or implemented, the specialist informs the problem coordinator when the root cause analysis is finished.
Closing or reassigning problem investigations
When the root cause analysis is finished, the problem coordinator reviews the analysis. If the coordinator is unsatisfied with the root cause analysis, they reassign the problem investigation for further analysis. if the problem is resolved, the problem coordinator closes the problem investigation.
The problem investigator also closes the investigation if the specialist performed a sound analysis but could not propose a structural solution. If the specialist did propose a structural solution but did not implement it because the specialist believes that a change is required, the problem coordinator confirms that this is the case. If a change is implemented, the problem coordinator generates a known error and passes it to the change coordinator of the affected service. This action starts the Change Management process. Later, after the change is implemented, the change coordinator reassigns the known error to the problem coordinator for closure.
Known errors generated during the release management process are also assigned to the problem coordinator for closure. During closure, the problem coordinator performs a final assessment of the problem investigation. If the problem coordinator is satisfied that the problem's root cause has been permanently removed, they close the problem investigation. If the root cause analysis concluded that no permanent workaround or solution to the root cause exists, and the problem coordinator agrees, the problem coordinator indicates that the problem investigation is at an impasse. This indication leaves the investigation open for periodic review in the event that an appropriate solution becomes available in the future. If, however, the resolution did not remove the root cause, or if the problem coordinator thinks that an appropriate solution is available, the problem coordinator reassigns the problem investigation for further analysis.
Creating problem investigations and known errors
Smart IT provides an easy way to initiate problem and known error tickets.The problem coordinator initiates a problem investigation by creating a problem ticket in Smart IT. Refer to Creating tickets using Smart IT and Overview of information displayed on a ticket in Smart IT for detailed information about creating and viewing tickets in Smart IT.
You can also relate problem investigations and known errors to other tickets so they appear on the Related Items tab of the related ticket. Refer to Relating items to the current ticket for information about relating tickets to other items.
To create problem investigations and known errors
If an incident review uncovers a recurring problem that is triggering incident requests, the problem coordinator creates a problem investigation in Smart IT and assigns it to a specialist. The problem coordinator can create a new problem investigation from the Smart IT navigation bar or from an existing incident ticket.
To create a problem investigation from scratch, select Create New > Problem Investigation in the Smart IT navigation bar. Complete required and optional fields, and then save the problem investigation. After you save the problem investigation, you can access it in the system, and other users with appropriate permissions can view and update it.
To create a related problem investigation from an incident, in the incident request form, open the Related Items tab and select Create > Related Problem.
When you create a related problem investigation from an incident, many fields such as Company, Affected Service, Operational Category, Product Category, Problem Location, and Description are copied from the incident to the problem investigation. In the problem investigation form, the Investigation Driver and Assigned To fields are not filled in. You must make a selection for the Investigation Driver field before you can save the form. You can modify the problem investigation fields before you save the form.
To create known errors
If a specialist recommends that a change is the best way to remove the root cause of a problem, the change is initiated by creating a known error and assigning it to the change coordinator of the affected service. If BMC Knowledge Management is installed in your environment, you can also create knowledge articles to describe known errors. The information in the knowledge articles could be useful to subsequent users who encounter or analyze the same or similar issues and problems.
To create a known error from a problem investigation, open the problem ticket, click the Related Items tab, and select Create > Related Known Error.
To create a known error from scratch, in the Smart IT navigation bar, select Create New > Known Error.
Some of the fields in the known error record are already filled out; for example, the Status field is set to Assigned.
To create a related change request from a problem investigation or known error
If a problem coordinator or change coordinator believes that a change is required to address the root cause of a problem or a known error, the coordinator creates a related change request in BMC Remedy with Smart IT. Creating a related change request from a problem investigation or known error allows the coordinator to manage and track the required BMC Remedy IT Service Management record and efficiently implement a structural solution. The change ticket appears in the Related Items tab of the problem investigation, and the Created and Created By relationships are automatically established. See Creating and managing change requests using Smart IT, which explains the entire lifecycle of a change request.
To create a related change request, open the Related Items tab of the problem investigation or known error and select Create > Related Change Request.
To view and update problem investigations and known errors
A Smart IT user such as a problem coordinator, service desk agent, or change coordinator can view the details of a problem investigation any time after it is created, to easily assess what the problem investigation is about, who is working on it, and what has happened with the investigation over time. See Viewing and updating tickets using Smart IT opening and viewing tickets, changing details, or adding new information.
- To locate problem records, use the Ticket console and filter the list for Problem Investigation.
- To locate known errors, filter the list for Known Error.
- After you open the problem investigation or known error, click the Edit icon associated with a group of fields to open those fields in edit mode, which allows you to update the field contents.
You can open a problem investigation or known error by using any of the following methods:
- Ticket console
- Relationship to another record
- Update stream
- Push notification
- Email notification
To update a problem investigation or known error, click the pencil icon for the ticket or for the field group that you want to update.
BMC Remedy ITSM user permissions must be observed when accessing problem investigations and known errors. Any Smart IT user who has problem viewer permissions can see the details of a problem investigation or known error. Problem coordinators who have problem user permissions can also update the details of the problem investigation or known error.
To relate existing tickets to problem investigations and known errors
You can relate an existing ticket such as an incident or change request to a problem investigation or known error. When you relate an existing ticket to one of these items, the ticket appears in the Related Items tab of the problem investigation. See Relating items to the current ticket and Overview of information displayed on a ticket in Smart IT for detailed information.
To relate an existing ticket to a problem investigation or known error, open the Related Items tab and select Relate Existing Item and choose the Relationship Type: Identified, Initiated, or Related To.
After you save your selections, they are listed when you select Related Items in the problem or known error.
To create a knowledge article from a problem investigation or known error
To provide instructions, workarounds, or other information pertinent to a problem investigation, a problem coordinator or assignee can create a knowledge article to capture the information required to resolve similar problems. When creating a knowledge article from a problem or known error, key content from the problem or known error records is copied to the knowledge article. For complete information about creating knowledge articles, refer to Creating knowledge articles for sharing information in Smart IT.
To locate existing knowledge articles, open the Resources tab and search for knowledge articles.
If a knowledge article does not exist for a problem you are researching, you can create a new one. Select Create a new article in the Resources tab or select Create New > Knowledge in the Smart IT navigation bar.
Typically, you will use the Problem Solution and Known Error knowledge article templates for problems and known errors. Review the format for the template you want, and click Use selected Template. For additional information about templates, refer to Using custom knowledge management templates with Smart IT.
After an article is created, it goes through the usual article lifecycle.
Example of managing a problem investigation in Smart IT
Mary Mann is a problem coordinator in the Network Infrastructure group. Mary hosts a monthly incident review in which the review team evaluates incident tickets for the month and identifies recurring incidents for underlying problems with the services they are responsible for. When the team finds an issue with a routing table for network equipment that is causing recurring incident requests, Mary begins the problem investigation process:
- Mary locates an incident that was triggered by the problem, and on the Related Items tab, she selects Create > Related Problem Investigation.
- The new problem investigation is prepopulated with information from the incident, so for now, Mary updates the Investigation Driver field (a required field), and assigns the problem to a specialist. She sets the Investigation Driver to Re-Occurring Incidents. For the assignee, she clicks the pencil icon in the Assignment group. Here she has the option of having Smart IT automatically assign the best-fit group, from which she can select a specialist. However, she instead selects Bob Baxter from the Backoffice Support group, because he has the most experience in dealing with this type of problem.
- After saving the problem investigation, Mary clicks the Share icon and emails Bob, informing him that he has been assigned the problem investigation. She also clicks the Follow icon so she can see updates to the problem investigation as it proceeds.
- Mary then relates incidents to the problem investigation. She selects the Related Items tab and clicks Relate Existing Item. She searches for routing table and selects related incidents. From the Relationship Type, list she selects Related to. Then she saves the ticket. The related items now appear on the Related Items tab.
Bob then initiates the root cause analysis. He begins by looking for a temporary workaround while he determines a permanent solution. Bob decides to review knowledge articles, where he identifies a workaround to the issue. He then updates the problem investigation ticket with the workaround:
- In Smart IT, Bob selects Console > Ticket Console to locate and open the problem investigation. Open tickets assigned to him are displayed by default.
- On the Resources tab, Bob finds a knowledge article that provides a workaround to the issue and pins it to the problem ticket.
- Bob then updates the Workaround field with a summary of the procedure and instructions to refer to the knowledge article he pinned to the problem investigation. He then updates the status to Under Investigation and saves the ticket.
- Bob clicks the Share icon and emails Mary to inform her that he has identified a workaround and updated the problem investigation with that information.
With the temporary workaround in place, Bob continues to investigate the root cause. He finds that the solution is to reconfigure the routing table. Before initiating the change process, Bob updates the Root Cause field:
- Bob opens the ticket console and selects the problem investigation from the My Tickets list.
The Root Cause field is not visible because it contains no information. Bob clicks the pencil icon to edit the ticket and scrolls down to locate the Root Cause field. He sets the root cause to Infrastructure Issue. When he saves the changes, the field becomes visible on the ticket.
Some fields, such as Root cause, are not visible on a ticket until they contain data.
- Bob adds an Activity Note describing the root cause. He then emails Mary to inform her that he has identified the root cause. Mary emails Bob back, letting him know that the fix requires a change request.
Now that the root cause has been identified, Mary is ready to create a related known error:
- Mary opens the problem investigation, and under Related Items, she clicks Create and selects Related Known Error from the list.
- Mary reviews the imported information in the Known Error form and makes any changes or additions that are needed. She then saves the known error, which subsequently appears on the Related Items tab of the problem investigation.
Mary notifies the incident review team that the root cause has been identified and that a change request will be needed to implement a structural solution. After the team evaluates the root cause, Mary creates the change request:
- Mary opens the problem investigation and selects the Related Items tab at the bottom of the form.
- Mary clicks the Create button and selects Related Change Request.
- Mary follows the procedures in Creating and managing change requests using Smart IT to complete the change request.
- When the change is implemented, Mary updates the problem investigation status to Completed.
After the change process is complete, Mary sets the status of the problem investigation to Closed, which completes the problem investigation.
How administrators configure problem management functionality
The administrator must ensure that users have the minimum permissions needed to access problem management functionality in Smart IT. Refer to the Problem Agent permissions in Smart IT Permissions.
If your organization requires custom fields to capture additional data in change requests, the administrator can add those fields to the change wizard. For more information, see Adding custom fields to your views using Smart IT in Related topics.
Configuring risk assessment (BMC Change Management documentation)