Issues are a mainstay of any project. Regardless of how well-planned the project is, there will always be instances or events that can undermine the ability of the organisation to deliver on the project outcomes. Staff or supplier issues, material shortages, and technical failures are some of the most common issues that may throw off a project. That is why an essential technique of effective project management is issue management. This is a systematic and organised approach to the identification and resolution of unexpected issues that may crop up at any point in the project life cycle.

The Issue Management Process

The effective management and resolution of project issues involves several key steps that all project managers must be familiar with. The process starts with the identification of the issue, the planning of action for issue resolution, the escalation of certain issues, and the monitoring and effective reporting of the actions taken to resolve the issue.

  • Identification

The process of issue management starts with the accurate and timely identification of any gaps, conflicts, problems, inconsistencies, or any other issue that can have a negative impact on the effective and efficient performance of project activities. The identified issues should be categorised and assigned ownership to facilitate its effective resolution.

An important activity in issue identification is the determination of its level of priority. High-priority issues require immediate action. Any delay in the resolution of the issue can have profound effects on the project deliverables.

At this stage of the issue management process, the project management team should also be able to identify the correct solution that will help in the resolution of the issue.

  • Escalation

There are some issues that are beyond the management and decision-making capabilities of a project manager. For example, inter-group and resource conflicts, scope disagreements, ambiguous responsibilities and roles, project objectives-related issues, and third-party dependencies are often beyond the capabilities of the manager. These issues require the skills and the decisions of those in higher management.

  • Monitoring

It is also important to keep track of the progress of the actions designed to resolve the issue. All issues should have a predetermined time period for its resolution. Monitoring the progress of the solutions can help determine if the actions are on-point in resolving the issue. If not, then there may be a need for the modification of the action plan.

  • Reporting

The higher management, stakeholders, and other key decision-makers need to have an idea about what issues are affecting their project. They would also like to know what is being done to address these issues. Reporting effectively communicates the different aspects of issue management to top-level management.

  • Resolution

This stage of the issue management process hallmarks the closure of the issue. It includes a summary of the different actions taken to resolve the issue.

Issue Logs and / or Issue Registers

Any issue that can have an impact on the project needs to be recorded as they occur in the project life cycle. Issue logs or registers are the documents that record the occurrence of problems, conflicts, inconsistencies, or even gaps in the project activities. Issue registers serve as an important tool for communicating the different unforeseen events that are occurring within the project. This allows the project management team, the stakeholders, and key decision-makers to make corrective actions for the immediate resolution of the issues.

The issue log contains the following information.

  • Type of Issue

The project management team should categorise the issues to make it easier for escalation and resolution. The common types of issues can be classified in broad categories, such as technical, business process, resource, change management, and third-party.

  • Identifier

This reflects the name of the person who discovered or identified the issue.

  • Timing of Issue

This information indicates the date and time of issue discovery.

  • Issue Description

Provides a detailed description of the issue, including its potential effects on the project. It can also include project aspects that the issue can have an effect if it remains unresolved.

  • Priority

Some issues need to be addressed immediately, while others may not require immediate resolution. The project management team should be able to prioritise the issues as having high, medium, or low priority.

  • Issue Ownership Assignment

This information identifies the person who will assume responsibility for the resolution of the issue. He is responsible for the tracking and monitoring of the issue until its final resolution.

  • Target Date of Resolution

Specifies the date upon which the issue should be resolved.

  • Status

This includes several labels that help identify the current status of the issue management. An open status indicates that there are no concrete actions taken yet for the identified issue. An investigating status indicates that people are already examining the potential solutions to the issue. An implementing status can show that the team is already carrying out the identified solutions to resolve the issue. An escalated status means that the issue needs the decision of higher management. A resolved status formalises the resolution of the issue.

  • Description of Action/ Resolution

Every action in the process of issue management requires a brief description, including the date upon which the actions were taken.

  • Final Resolution

This provides a brief description about the actions taken to resolve the issue.

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Importance of Issue Management

The main goal of issue management is to resolve all issues that can undermine the overall effectiveness of a project in the production of its final deliverables. It allows the project management team to identify and document problems, gaps, inconsistencies, and conflicts anywhere in the project life cycle.

Issue management allows for the easier evaluation of issues, while also ensuring a more accurate assessment of the impact of these issues on the project. These activities can help in the formulation of a comprehensive plan that will address and resolve the issue.

An effective issue management can provide the project management team with invaluable insights on how they can avoid such issues in future projects. They can use the information from the issue logs to improve the formulation of future project plans.

Issue management allows project managers to identify issues that can have an impact on the project. The prompt identification of issues can lead to its more efficient management that culminates in the resolution of the issue. This is one way an organisation can ensure that its project will be able to deliver on its final promise.

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