Problem or defect?

Discussion on issues related directly or largely to ITIL problem management.
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Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:00 pm

Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:03 am

I've been working for some time on standardizing and maturing problem management in our organization.

One of the issues I've encountered is that when a problem is found in production, developement wants to reclassify this as a 'defect'.

Maybe it's all in the terminology, but my understanding of problem management is that it is not specific to just production environments, but to all.

We have some large hurdles to overcome, as developers use a different tool for "defect" tracking than in operations. The integration between these tools is a whole different discussion.

I do know that Problem management does exist in Service Transition when pushing releases into production with known errors. However, can problems be manifested earlier on and be called such or does it even matter?

For newly built configuration items, in development, going through early testing phases with issues, are they classified as problems or just 'defects'?


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Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:19 pm

Without getting too precious about the definition, a defect is something that is wrong with a product in the sense of being contrary to its design specification.

In service management terms a problem is a set of circumstances that has the potential to disrupt a service either int erms of its availability or of its quality.

So, the use of a software product being delivered as a service is discovered to be causing incidents. The incidents are resolved by some means (workaround?), but it is recognized that they will recurr. This is a problem and requires investigation as to underlying causes with a view to resolution (eradication or amelioration).

Among other things, the underlying cause may be a defect in the software. It could be a design failing which you may regard as a defect or not, or it may be a documentation or training failing, or something else. If the underlying cause is a defect then there you are!

It is not the problem that is the defect, it is the cause of the problem that is the defect. This is an important distinction because, with a problem, you want to remedy it in accordance with the measure of risk agains the cost of the remedy and so you ask (require) development to expedite the correction accordingly.

My point is this: Service Management has a problem to manage and Development has a defect to identify and correct. The act of developing the correction is not part of problem management, but the imposition of, for example, timescales or deadlines is part of problem management. You do not pass the problem to Development. You commision them to perform actions (investigation, design, development, testing etc.)
"Method goes far to prevent trouble in business: for it makes the task easy, hinders confusion, saves abundance of time, and instructs those that have business depending, both what to do and what to hope."
William Penn 1644-1718
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