Managing Project Issues
Issues happen. As any project proceeds, questions and problems arise, and if the course or outcome of the project hangs in the balance, then an "issue" is born. Looking at this definition, it appears as if project issues and risks are one and the same. Although the distinctions may be subtle in nature, issues differ from risks in terms of predictability and management approach. The fact that issues will arise is predictable, but the specific substance of any given issue is not. Risks are predictable circumstances, those which should be identified before a project begins.
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Issues can (and do) pop up at any time during a project, and must be dealt with quickly, without the benefit of pre-defined solutions. Typically, project issues involve the project deliverable itself, in the form of unexpected technical problems, incompatibilities, bugs or other conflicts. However, during the course of a project, it is likely that other issues will also arise, relating to project schedules, resources, materials, finances, or other unexpected changes in the project environment.
Steps - issues analysis and evaluation
Just because you can't predict issues, doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared to handle issues once they arrive. Every project should begin with a defined process for issues management. An effective issues management process should cover the following bases:
Goals: what are you trying to accomplish with the process? In all likelihood, your issues process should be designed to ensure that all issues are identified and resolved in a timely fashion, keeping all parties informed as needed to get the job done.
Capabilities: What tools will be used to raise, resolve, and track issues as they arise and as they are closed?
Origination: How will issues be raised to the project manager?
Evaluation: How will issues be reviewed and assigned?
Tracking: How will issues be monitored and tracked for timely resolution?
Escalation: How will issues be escalated in the event they cannot be resolved and closed?
Once an issue is raised and documented, resource assignments must be made. Depending on the nature of the issue, any project team member or resource may be involved. For example, an unexpected bug in a piece of software will likely be assigned to a technical team member, who may be called upon to resolve the problem, or who may have to track the problem with a vendor. On the other hand, an issue of an administrative nature (i.e. the lack of available facilities for staging new equipment) may be assigned to a facilities manager, who may otherwise have limited involvement in other aspects of the project.
A key challenge in issues management is knowing how to make effective issues assignments. Since most issues must be resolved quickly, with little fanfare, it is important to assign issues to those who can hit the ground running whenever possible. Another key challenge in the issues process is to track issue status, from the point at which issues are first raised and assigned, through to resolution. Depending upon the complexity and visibility of any given project, you may need to hold ongoing issues meetings.. Issues meetings can bring an important perspective to the project process, providing the opportunity for the entire team to consider issues, plan actions and take a "big picture" perspective. These meetings can take place as needed, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, to ensure that issues are properly tracked and managed.
All of these requirements must be reflected in the established practices used to manage project issues, consisting of the tools and procedures by which issues are raised, resolved and managed.