Are You Practicing Issue Management In Your Projects?

Ken Martin
By | Updated December 8, 2015 | 7 min read
issue management

In the life cycle of any project, there will always be unexpected problems and issues that arise.


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When these issues arise, a project manager has to be ready to deal with them or they will potentially affect the project’s outcome.



What is Issue Management?

  • Issue management is the process of identifying and resolving issues.
  • Problems with staff or suppliers, technical failures, material shortages, and so on have a negative impact on your project.
  • Unresolved issues can be a source of conflict that delays or prevents the project team from attaining project goals, milestones, and deliverables.
  • Issue Management is designed to minimize the negative effects of issues on a project.
  • Issue Management follows similar processes to risk management. As such, these two areas are usually considered in tandem.
  • Issues arising should be recorded on a Project Issues Log.
  • Issue Management addresses obstacles that can hinder project success.
  • These obstacles can include such factors as:
    • Differences of opinion
    • Situations to be investigated
    • Unanticipated responsibilities.
  • The purpose of issue management is to identify and document these issues and to resolve them by reviewing and carefully considering all relevant information.
  • Project issues must be identified, managed and resolved throughout the project in order for the project to be successful.
  • Issue management plays an important role in maintaining project stability and efficiency throughout the project lifecycle.
  • It is the responsibility of the project manager to effectively manage and monitor issues on a regular basis, follow up with issue owners to ensure progress is being made towards resolution, and to report on the status of issues.
  • Effective issue management also contributes to constructive working relationships with the project stakeholders, including the project team.
  • An issue log is a key tool for the project manager for tracking and monitoring issue resolution.


What is an Issue?

  • An issue is anything that may prevent the project from meeting its goals.
  • An issue is a problem that will impede the progress of the project.
  • An issue is a point or matter in question or dispute, or a point or matter that is not settled and is under discussion, or over which there are opposing views or disagreements.


What is a Risk?

  • A risk is a potential occurrence whereas an issue is something that has actually occurred.
  • A risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative impact on a project’s objectives.


Key Issue Management Questions

  • How will a PM assign responsibility for resolving the issue?
  • How will a PM know when to escalate an issue to management or the steering committee?
  • What criteria will determine an issue’s priority status?
  • Who will set the target resolution date?
  • How will issues be communicated within the team?
  • How will a PM identify different issues if several occur during one project?
  • If change orders are needed, how will those be handled?
  • When the resolution affects the budget or schedule, what will the update process be, and who will be responsible?


Types of Issues

  • Issues can be raised by anyone associated with the project. A clear process for raising issues should be shared with the team.
  • Defining issue categories helps to track issues and assign the right people to resolve them.
  • Issues may arise from a wide variety of sources, for example:
    • Technical issues relating to a technological problem in the project.
    • Technical requirements have changed.
    • The project is insufficiently funded.
    • Lack of visible management sponsorship for the project.
    • Ineffective project communications.
    • Poor definition of project goals, scope, requirements, and deliverables.
    • Project management processes are not followed.
    • Business process issues arising from a project’s design.
    • Business requirements have changed.
    • Change management issues to scope and timescales that arise from an unplanned requested change to the system.
    • The project schedule is overly aggressive.
    • Equipment delays have impacted the project schedule.
    • Third party issues or “bugs” that need to be reported to an external supplier.
    • Transition activity issues.
    • Dependencies with other projects.
    • Conflict within the team.



What is a Project Issues Log?

  • Issues need to be recorded when they happen. A project manager uses the Issues Log within a a RAID template for reporting and communicating what’s happening with the project
  • This makes sure that issues are raised, investigated, and resolved quickly and effectively
  • Without a defined process, issues may be overlooked until it’s too late to deal.


An issues log has some of the following benefits:

  • Provides a useful tool for managing and addressing issues identified before and during the project.
  • Identifies and documents actions taken to address the identified issues and their subsequent resolution.
  • Provides senior management with a documented framework from for monitoring issues.
  • Ensures the communication of issues to key stakeholders.
  • Provides a mechanism for seeking and acting on feedback regarding project issues to encourage the involvement of the key stakeholders.



When to develop a Project Issues Log?

  • As part of the RAID template, the Issues Log should be created at the start of the project
  • The frequency of issues reporting will vary depending on the size of the project.
  • With most projects, this may consist of a weekly review of any issues that could affect progress.


The Issue Log Format

  • The Issues Log details issues identified at the beginning and during the life of the project, the action taken to address each issue, and the subsequent results
  • This log should be maintained throughout the project and updated regularly. Existing issues are closed as a result of successful actions and new issues are added as they are identified.


The Issues Log usually includes:

  • The date when the issue was raised.
  • An issue reference number (ID) to identify different issues.
  • A name for the Issue.
  • A brief description of the cause of the issue:
    • Technical issue.
    • Business process issue as part of the project’s design.
    • Change management issue from business, customer, or environmental changes.
    • Resource issues from equipment, material, or people problems.
    • Third party issues with vendors, suppliers, or other outside parties.
  • The name of the person who raised this issue.
  • The date the issue is assigned to someone.
  • Name of the person(s) assigned to solving the issue.
  • The priority and severity of the issue, including the consequences of not resolving the issue.


The status of the issue:

  • Status: Track the progress of the resolution with a clear label identifying the issue’s overall status.
  • Here’s an example:
    • Open: The issue has been identified, but no action has yet been taken.
    • Investigating: The issue, and possible solutions, are being investigated.
    • Implementing: The issue resolution is in process.
    • Escalated: The issue has been raised to management or the project steering committee, and directions or approval of a solution is pending.
    • Resolved: The resolution has been implemented, and the issue is closed.
  • A list of the actions performed before.
  • What the final resolution was to settle the issue.
  • The date when the issue is solved.


Best Practices For Issue Management

  • Any potential problem should be surfaced early and dealt with efficiently.
  • Proactively manage issues to minimize their effect on a project.
  • Make issues visible to the relevant stakeholders.
  • An issue escalation process should be determined as a part of the overall issue management planning activities and should be documented.
  • All issues, regardless of how minor they seem, should be centrally documented in an issue log.
  • Issues should be stated in such a way that it is clear how they can be resolved.
  • Use ‘traffic lights’ when reporting issues. This provides an easy-to-see indication of whether issues are under control. Traffic lights could be used as follows:
    • Red – Cannot continue before the issue is resolved
    • Amber  – Resolution is in process, and you’ll be able to proceed soon.


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Ken Martin
Ken Martin

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