Issue or problem management is simply a disciplined focus on identifying, tracking, and resolving things that go wrong in a project. It is a fundamental component of project control and PMI lists issue management as a foundational process asset for a project organization. Project management author and guru Neal Whitten says that the number one reason projects get into trouble is the lack of focus on their top issues.
An issue can be an undocumented requirement, a design flaw, a project team member quitting, a bug, or an action item. How issues are tracked is less important than ensuring they get tracked, but it pays for a manager to have a system that captures relevant information, is easy to use, and can scale and adapt to various issue types.
The typical characteristics in describing an issue could include the following.
- unique identifier such as a code or number
- cross-reference identifier to a vendor’s trouble-ticketing system or to a project risk database
- date issue occurred or was identified
- short description or title
- long description
- type of issue (e.g., application, data base, hardware, OS, resource, process, etc.)
- ranking of criticality, usually a combination of a ratings describing urgency and importance
- status (i.e., open, closed, assigned, in-progress, etc.)
- resolution ETA
Obviously, the type of issue could dictate additional fields and types of information. For instance, for a software bug, one might want to capture the module and error message.
Spreadsheets and tables in word processors are the typical repositories for issues. More complex and voluminous issues are best captured in an enforced database structure, such as Access. If multiple people will be capturing issue, Sharepoint or a dedicated issue management application such as Bugzilla, Jira or on the high end, Rational Clearquest, may be appropriate. In larger software projects, software defect management may be handled separately from general project issues because of their quantity and complexity.
As the project nears completion, remaining open issues should be transferred to an operations issues status, which may mean input into a new service management application.