The Information Technology Infrastructure Library or simply ITIL as it is more commonly referred to as is essentially a set of detail IT-related management services that primarily serves on providing the best possible practice for companies and organisations. Despite fact that it has been around since the eighties however, there are still confusions that exist regarding the difference between problem management and incident management, specifically where which one stops and paves the way for the other to begin.

You might be wondering why such a minor state of incertitude with the respective definitions of these two terms would be a big deal, but the lack of familiarity about their differences can actually have significantly negative effects not just on the system or network infrastructure that the company relies on but more importantly on the entirety of the business as well.

Incident management


Incident management, deals with resolving any unplanned interruptions and disruptions to a particular service that may cause far more significant problems down the line and restore operations as a result. No matter how small or insignificant an issue or incident may be, fixing them in a timely fashion is essential since they can oftentimes have major repercussions and cause bigger problems for a business. Generally, incident management involves the first level of support, which includes the following:

  • Identification, logging, categorization, prioritization, and diagnosis of the incident.
  • Resolution and closure of an incident
  • Escalation to the second level of support if necessary.
  • Proper communication and interaction with the users during the existence of the incident.

Problem management

If incident management focuses primarily on dealing with unforeseen issues as they arise, problem management exists to identify the cause or the source and follow up with the appropriate resolutions in order to prevent the same incident from occurring once again. To this end, it’s a much more involving process compared to incident management since it requires more data to generate a proper analysis of exactly what is going on and oftentimes may need the incident to be repeated more than once.

While problem management may be limited in scope when compared to incident management, the proactive approach means that it may essentially take a lot longer to resolve it. Here are the activities that problem management usually entails:

  • Problem detection, logging, categorization and prioritization.
  • Diagnosis and investigation of the issue.
  • Record generation for the error.
  • Resolution and closure of the problem.
  • Comprehensive review and proper documentation of the problem.

Incident management vs. problem management

The best way to differentiate both incident management and problem management is that the former is akin more to a firefighter responding to a call, sweeping in and putting out the fire immediately. Incident management is about dealing with the problem at the hand with swift resolution before it can cause major problems. The latter on the other hand acts more like a detective who gets into the scene after the damage has been done to ascertain what the problem was and how to prevent its future reoccurrence.

Being aware of the differences between incident management and problem management may seem trivial, but the understanding that comes from it can pay dividends in how effective and efficient the business runs. Knowing when to quickly solve problems that present themselves and when to put in the time to investigate the source can make all the difference in keeping daily operations running as smoothly as possible. While this may not sound like much, especially for larger enterprises that may access to unlimited resources, it can be advantageous to smaller ones with more modest budgets and need to manage their respective resources better.