issue management

Are You Practicing Issue Management In Your Projects?

December 8, 2015 by

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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