P-I-C Process for Issue Prioritization
As we describe in our book and as it is outlined in the ITIL toolkit, all organizations can benefit greatly from the separation of Incidents and Problems. Incidents are customer impacting events in your production environment, or as the ITIL defines them “an event which is not part of the standard operation of a service and which causes or may cause disruption to or a reduction in the quality of services and Customer productivity”. Problems are the cause of one or more incidents.
The separation of these are important as most of us wish to quickly resolve incidents (reduce or minimize customer impact) while permanently resolving the underlying problems causing them. The actions we take to resolve an incident may include workarounds or band-aids to restore service while the team works to eliminate the root cause of the problem. We strive to restore service in whatever way possible as quickly as possible while working to find true root cause for the service disruption.
There is another important piece we typically recommend to our clients and that is to map incidents to customer complaints or customer cost. This cost may include the real cost of handling customer contacts through phone, chat and email. It also should include the risk of customer departure, engineering cost in workarounds or permanent fixes, overall customer satisfaction and lost opportunity of working on fixes v. other revenue enhancing features.
We know that a problem may cause one or more incidents and that an incident might be caused by one or more problems. But that information alone isn’t enough to prioritize, with limited resources, what we attack first in short, medium and long term product and architecture changes. Because not every incident costs us the same to fix, we need to identify what 20% of incidents drive 80% of our problems (assuming that the Pareto Principle applies). At the very least, we should be working on those incidents and associated problems that are high in customer cost and risk relative to other incidents and problems.
By adding Customer Cost (the “C” in the P-I-C process) to our operations morning meetings, and evaluating it alongside incidents and their problems we can help make better decisions. Classifying the severity of the incident by this “C” and using that classification to drive effort and resolution aligns your engineering operations with your business objectives.