Posted by: Craig Harding | October 28, 2009

Do You Follow a Regimented Issue Management Process?

Do You Follow a Regimented Issue Management Process?

An issue is an unresolved decision or situation that will significantly impact the project.

Every project manager is confronted with issues during the course of an engagement. All issues must be evaluated and resolved to ensure that risks to project success are identified and mitigated effectively.

The identification of an issue and its preliminary analysis are sub-processes included in the risk identification process (The four basic processes within the Risk Management discipline are risk identification, risk quantification, risk response development and risk response control).

As issues surface they must be documented and evaluated to determine if they fall into one of three basic classifications: (1) an issue subject to change control, (2) an issue requiring some administrative action on the part of the service provider or client or (3) an issue that has the potential to become a tangible risk factor to the project. The issue classification step should assign the issue to one of these three categories and start the process to resolve or mitigate the issue. More details on each class follow:

(1) If the issue has a specific remedy that is defined in the terms and conditions of the contract under change control (e.g., a resource cannot find time to complete his assigned tasks and requests that a contract resource be assigned to help with interface development), then the standard change control process is executed.

(2) Another group of issues includes questions that are raised by the client or other project stakeholders that need additional research or discussion to satisfy the inquiry. The eventual answer may move the issue into the change control process or the risk management process, or it may simply be closed once the answer has been supplied. Every issue that is documented or vigorously pursued by the client is a potential risk to project and business success and must be resolved. The resolution should be documented and published to mitigate exposure to write-offs and post-delivery disputes that may result in litigation.

(3) The last category includes those issues that present potential risk to the project’s success.

When you need to Manage Project Issues

Issues can be identified at any time, during project planning, scheduling or controlling. They need to be managed (controlled) as soon as they arise. An issue can become a risk at any time.

Acceptance Criteria for Issue Management at AG Consulting

There are 4 aspects to Issue Management:

Issue Identification & Tracking – Identifying outstanding questions, decisions and other problems before they adversely affect the project. Establishing and tracking a plan for getting them resolved.

Issue Analysis – Understanding the issue sufficiently to consider future consequences of action plans made to resolve it.

Issue Control – Carrying out actions to ensure issues are resolved in a timely and effective manner. Prioritizing and orchestrating the issue resolution process.

Issue Communication – Communicating issues and their resolution to the right level of the organization to get them resolved, or to prevent them from escalating into risks.

The Project Manager’s Role in Scope Definition

Like Risk Management, Issues Management is a collaborative endeavor. Everyone is responsible for identifying issues. However, the Project Manager is responsible to:

Set up an issues tracking system. You will need to make a choice as to how you want to keep track of issues. Many organizations have their own process to follow.

Assess whether the questions or situations raised by other team members are truly issues, i.e, that the question or situation cannot be answered or corrected in time to prevent an impact on the project progress or budget.

If so, update your issues tracking system so that the issue is on record.

Initiate a resolution by determining the issue priority and assigning an owner with responsibility for identifying several alternative resolutions and recommendations. Assign target dates for reporting periodic status on the resolution.

Escalate the issue, if necessary. Some issues cannot be resolved within the project team. The project manager is responsible for presenting such an issue to those who need to know and for making sure that an action plan is created.

Select a resolution from the alternatives presented to you, or assemble the appropriate decision makers and present the alternatives together with recommendations

Notify those who need to know how the issue is going to be resolved.

Determine if the resolution involves a change request. If so, implement the Change Control Process.

Track the resolution progress n the Issue Tracking System and communicate the results.

As with Risk Management, although the ultimate responsibility for Issue management lies with the Project Manager, this is a collaborative endeavor. Team members are responsible for identifying issues and for escalating issues to you, the Project Manager, if they cannot resolve them at their level. It is your responsibility as Project Manager to encourage your team to identify issues throughout the engagement. Experience has shown that the people closest to the work usually know best how to resolve issues. Therefore, it is also your job to encourage each team to be responsible for resolving as many issues as possible at the local level. At the same time, it is important to escalate those issues which should be escalated as soon as possible.

If Issues are not resolved, there can be negative consequences for the Project Manager. The consequences include the following:

  • Inability to deliver to contract timelines, cost, and schedule
  • Poor or unacceptable functional design
  • Poor reference from the client
  • Post implementation disputes

Having a well documented issue management process is crucial to communicating and enforcing that process across your team. If your organization does not have one, be sure to create one for your project.

Cheers,

Craig

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Responses

  1. Very informative and detailed, thanks for sharing. What tools have you seen being used for issue management?

    • Thanks for the comment. For issue management I have used several tools over the years. Initially just spread sheets and lists, or some home grown applications from and Access Database. Now I mostly use issue tracking within Share Point and Project Server. Share Point allows all team members to easily access the issue register for better communications.

      Thanks again,
      Craig


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