An issue is any unintentional event that occurs during project execution, causing roadblocks to fulfil the project objectives or meeting the project deadlines. Issue Handling and resolution are essential steps in project management. As such, a good project management course must teach you how to create and maintain an Issue Log. An Issue log, in simple terms, is a record of all the issues that arise during project development and execution. In this blog, let us look at Issue logs in some more detail and try to understand their necessity and structure.
What is an Issue?
An issue is a problem, inconsistency, or gap that occurs at any phase of a project’s lifecycle that, if left unresolved, could lead to delays, conflicts, or failure of the project deliverables. An issue could be anything ranging from material shortages or staff or supplier issues to technical glitches. Anything that has a negative impact on the project is classified as an issue and requires resolution. Issues can negatively affect the stakeholder expectations in the project.
What is an Issue Log?
An Issue log, or issue register, is a documentation that is part of a software project, which contains a list of all the active and closed issues that occurred during the project. Commonly, an issue log serves as a means for tracking the errors that occurred in a project and the resolution measures adopted. However, its role goes beyond that. Creating an issue log offers us a tool for reporting and communicating everything that goes on in the project. In some ways, it is similar to a ticket that you raise with the support team when you request to resolve issues in your office. The problem is logged, given a unique ID, assigned to relevant individuals or teams, and tracked all the way till it is resolved. Typically, a project manager creates a spreadsheet or database or buys an issue management software solution to register issues pertaining to the project.
Components of an Issue Log
A sample template of an issue log is provided below.
Let us look at each component in this sample issue log:
- Issue Name/ Number
- A name is assigned to the issue as a rough indication of what it is about. However, an issue number is usually given for the sake of keeping accurate records.
- Issue Type
- It is a good practice to define the categories of the issues that may be encountered in the project. This makes it easy for the project manager to assign the issues to the right people who could resolve them, making it easy to track them.
- Raised By
- The name of the individual who reported the issue is recorded in this column.
- Reported Date
- The date of first raising the issue is recorded in this column.
- Priority ratings can be given as something like high, medium, or low, depending on the impact the issue might have on the project and the urgency with which it needs to be resolved.
- This column of the issue Log is meant to mention sufficient details about the issue for a quick resolution. The description may also include the impact that the issue might have on the project and the project objectives that could be affected by the issues.
- Assigned To
- The individual or team responsible for the issue can be included in this column. Additionally, the person responsible for tracking the issue and ensuring its resolution can also be included in this column.
- Target Resolution Date
- The due date or deadline by which the issue must be resolved may be included in this column of the issue Log.
- The progress of the resolution of the issue can be tracked in this column. Status can be indicated by pre-fixed terms like open, in progress, resolved, etc.
- Final Solution
- This column may include a brief description of the solution implemented to resolve the issue.
- This column can be added in case of issues related to human resources, equipment, or materials pertaining to the project.
- Any issues related to vendors, suppliers, or other third parties may be indicated in a column like this in the issue Log.
- Technical Description
- This column can be included in case of issues where a technical description is necessary.
Difference between an Issue and a Risk
A risk and an issue have similarities in the way in which they are identified, recorded, and resolved. A risk, like an issue, is assigned a clear ownership and deadline for resolution. However, there are some fundamental differences between risks and issues. A risk is an uncertain event or even a potential issue that may arise in a project and for which prior planning and preparation are usually made. Project planning typically involves proactively planning risk mitigation/prevention and risk response strategies and allocating time for the same.
On the other hand, an issue is an incident of negative consequence that is identified and recorded after it has occurred. Unlike risk management, issue management is reactive and requires urgent tactical decision-making and resolution.
For example, if a project lacks a resource with a particular skill, it is considered a risk and can be prevented with proper actions, such as hiring the required resource before the project begins. However, if a resource with a critical skill drops out of a project or becomes unavailable in between the project, it is considered an issue that calls for drastic and urgent resolution.
Now, we have seen what an Issue log is and what details must be included in it. An issue log is an essential component of project management. However, due to the tediousness involved in logging in every step in resolving an issue, maintaining an Issue Log is often seen as a wasteful activity by employees. However, Issue logs are important for not repeating the same errors in the same project or other projects. If proper records are not maintained, it will adversely affect the long-term productivity and output and, thereby, the team’s goodwill. Hence, nowadays, cloud-based project management software like Jira is used by firms as they contain in-built issue logs, which can be updated more easily and quickly.