Today I’m going to write about one of my favorite project management tools!
The Issues List – A Key Project Management Tool
All project managers should be familiar with the issues list, but I find that people who have never been involved in a large project don’t know what one is. That’s why I’m explaining it here today.
Put simply, issues are problems that occur on a project. As you go through a project, many issues often arise. This is expected. Issues can range from missing requirements to changes in the schedule. Issues can be large, and issues can be small. Some may be easy to resolve and others may go unresolved. But all issues should be recorded and tracked. This is where the issues list comes in.
The Issues List
The issue list is where you track issues identified over the course of a project.
There are many ways to record issues. On large scale projects, issues are often managed using issue tracking software. On smaller projects I prefer to track issues in excel.
Above I’ve included an example of an issues list in excel. Each issue is given an ID number and priority (high, medium, low). Other categories I recommend are:
• Issue Status
• A description of the issue
• The person who raised the issue
• Action steps that will be taken to close the issue
• Who the issue is assigned to (who will take action)
• The date the issue was discovered
• The date the issue should be closed by
• The date the issue was resolved
• A description of the final resolution of the issue
Issues vs Action Items
There’s a difference of opinion around issues and action items. Some project managers keep a separate log for each. I don’t. I view them this way (using the waterfall method):
Actions exist to solve issues. They go hand in hand. Every new action originates from an issue. Said again, you would not need to act on something new (unplanned) unless it originates from a new issue.
Issues vs Risks
A risk is an uncertain event that may or may not occur. It’s important to identify risks on a project, but as their occurrence is uncertain, you may not have to assign an owner to the risk. (That said, you may still want to determine if you should mitigate or avoid the risk, plan a risk response or just accept it.)
Risks are not recorded on the issues list. Instead they are recorded on a separate risk register.
Monitor the Issues List
The issues list is a great project management tool, but it won’t work unless you use it properly. Once you identify an issue and assign it to an owner, you need to manage and monitor the resolution of that issue just as you would any other part of the project.
• An issues list is a great way to avoid scope creep on a project. If issues are raised outside of the original project scope, you immediately know that there is scope creep.
• Issue lists should be reviewed with the project team regularly.
• Issue status is yet another metric that you can track on a project (see the example below).