Problem Solving Tools

There are a number of various tools and resources that can help in developing a solution to a problem. These may differ depending on the type of problem.


A flowchart is a diagram that represents a process, they can be simple or quite complex. A flowchart usually incorporates questions and decisions and as such it is a good troubleshooting tool, it ensures that certain options have been investigated and that nothing obvious has been left out.

Many helpdesks use first-line support in which staff are prompted to ask questions from a script that is shown on a computer screen.  The software script, which has been generated from a flowchart, will enable the support technician to lead the user through the problem.

Where the problem is related to a single computer system, using the computers operating System Help facility may help to locate general issues. If a solution is found, attempt to solve the problem and document this in your company faults database, if one exists. See below. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.

Faults Database

If you are working in an enterprise, another useful tool often used in problem solving is the Faults Database.  This is usually a locally maintained database that contains the problem and resolution of all faults logged within a company.  This is a very useful resource, especially as the problems are related to the enterprise infrastructure and systems. If you find a solution, attempt to solve the problem and document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.

Internet Resources

There are a number of internet resources that can be used to attempt to locate a particular problem.  This is accepted practice in industry.  You should start with the most reliable sources such as manufacturers online resources and remember that the information you may find on the internet may not always be reliable, so be careful when utilising such information found.  Again, document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.

If you do not find a solution, document the information and attempted solutions, and undo any changes made to the computer during the troubleshooting process, you should then escalate the call to someone more experienced, if possible.

Debugging tools

There are a number of debugging tools that can be employed when problem solving, it is important to know what the tool is used for and how to interpret the results before attempting a solution to rectify the problem. Debugging tools are typically pieces of software that are used to test and debug other programs, hardware or software by enabling step by step execution or logging of information

Desk checking

When testing or debugging software,  an important troubleshooting tool is to ‘desk check’ a piece of code.  This is where you would sit down with a piece of code in front of you and go through it line by line to ensure that you are satisfied it will work. Essentially, running the code in your head before you run the code on your computer.

Other troubleshooting tools include simulators that allow you to simulate a physical system or network and allow you to try solutions that would be too risky or impossible to attempt in a live environment.

Next: Planning, Implementing and Testing a Solution