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