Managing problems with your IT service desk

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Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) distinguishes between incidents and problems. Incident management serves to quickly restore services or broken experiences. For more information on incidents, see incident management.

Problem management seeks to prevent incidents from happening again. Problems are typically reported by internal IT members and not their customers.

An ITIL problem management workflow aims to investigate, record, and prevent IT infrastructure problems. The IT Service Desk template comes with a built-in workflow for handling problems. We recommend you start with the template's default workflow and adapt it to your business needs. When correctly managed, problem records prompt agents to detail known errors and workarounds in your knowledge base. These documents:

  • help service agents resolve issues and restore services
  • reduce downtime
  • increase the quality and trust of your IT infrastructure

This page describes best practices for managing problems using Jira Service Desk. You may seek formal training in how to make ITIL recommendation work best for your business.

On this page

Problem management process

The IT Service Desk template comes with a problem-management workflow. We set up this workflow to complement the following problem management process. Use the workflow to transition problem registers alongside these ITIL recommended activities:

  • problem investigation
  • identification of workarounds
  • recording of known errors

We recommend you start with our default workflow and adapt it to your specific needs over time.

The ITIL problem management process, in brief:

  1. Incident trends, vendors, or technical support staff report problems to the service desk.
  2. A service desk team member records the details of the problem and links all related incidents.
  3. A service desk agent labels the problem with appropriate categorization. They may reuse the labels of the incidents linked to the problem. The team uses these categories during review and for reporting.
  4. A service desk agent prioritizes the problem. They base priority on the frequency of related incidents and their impact.
  5. The service desk team determines the root cause of the problem.
  6. The service desk team records the workarounds used to resolve related incidents. These workarounds to reduce service interruptions until the service desk fully resolves the problem.
  7. The service desk team adds known errors to their knowledge base. They include symptoms of related incidents and relevant workarounds.
  8. The service desk team proposes a change to the infrastructure to resolve the problem.
  9. The service desk closes the problem.
  10. Team members should carry out in-depth reviews of major problems.

Set up problem management in Jira Service Desk

Configure the workflow and fields with the problem management workflow add-on

We used the ITIL framework to build the following workflow add-on for problem management:

You can use this workflow as a template for your own problem management process.

To use the workflow from the Marketplace:

  1. Log in as a user that has the Jira administrator global permission, and follow the instructions listed here to import a workflow.
  2. To add the workflow fields to your incidents, activate the screen by following the instructions here: Defining a screen.

Problem management workflow

Default form fields for problem reports

Jira Service Desk allows you to customize the fields of information collected from customers. Additionally, you can customize the fields of information used by your agents. Jira Service Desk does this through issue type fields and screens. Fields help agents investigate, assess, and categorize the problems for reporting or querying.

By default, we include the following fields in your agents' view of a problem. If needed, you can add custom fields. Find out more about fields in Jira.

Field name


Summary A short description of the request.
Reporter The person who submitted the request.
Component/s Segments of your IT infrastructure that relate to the request. For example, "Billing services" or "VPN server". These are used for labeling, categorization, and reporting.
Attachment Files or images added to the request.
Description A long, detailed description of the request.
Linked Issues A list of other requests that affect or are effected by the request. If your business uses other Atlassian products, this list may include linked development issues.
Assignee The team member assigned to work on the request.
Priority The importance of the request's resolution, usually in regards to your business needs and goals. Sometimes, priority is calculated by impact and urgency.
Labels A list of additional custom labels used for categorizing or querying records.
Request participants A list of extra customers who take part in the request, for example, people from other teams, or vendors. Read more about participants.
Approvers A list of people responsible for approving the request, usually business, financial or technical contacts .
Organizations A list of customer  groups interested in the request's resolution.
Impact The effect of the problem, usually in regards to service level agreements.
Urgency The time available before the business feels the problem's impact.
Source The asset or system where the problem originated.
Investigation reason The trigger for prompting an investigation. For example, reoccurring incidents, non-routine incidents, or other.
Pending reason A short description or code that indicates why the problem is not progressing.
Product categorization A category of IT asset or system that the request effects.
Operational categorization A category of action or function required to fulfill the request.
Root cause The original cause of the incidents related to the problem.
Workaround The detailed description of a temporary, known solution to restore a service. If you have Confluence, we recommend you document your workaround in your knowledge base.

Learn more about IT service management (ITSM)

Get more tips and tricks for successful ITSM, view case studies, and learn how to take your service desk to the next level. 

Check out the ITSM resources on IT Unplugged.

Last modified on Apr 30, 2019

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