No matter how well you plan for your projects, there will always come a time when unexpected issues arise that need to be addressed. When such issues come, it is critical to have a proper means of documenting, tracking, assigning and resolving the problem to minimise any negative impacts on the project or the organisation. For that very reason, project management professionals often tap into the power of issue logs.
What is an Issue?
Before going into depth about issue logs, we must first define a project issue. While issues are often discussed in tandem with risks, they are distinctly different. While a risk is anything that can potentially impact the future of a project, both positively and negatively, an issue is a project risk that has escalated into a current problem that can negatively impact the successful delivery of the project. An issue is current and present and thus requires immediate attention and action.
What is an Issue Log?
An issue log also referred to as an issue register, is a comprehensive document that outlines all issues that arise throughout the project lifecycle. It typically comes in the form of a list or spreadsheet that allows teams to easily track, record, report and communicate ongoing issue management progress. It acts much like support desk tickets that allow teams to easily log, identify, track and resolve an issue with clarity and efficiency.
The issue log is a vital part of both the risk management and issue management process. It not only helps with a real-time resolution of issues but also acts as a vital repository for historic data on team issue management performance. It provides the data needed to find issue themes throughout the organisation’s projects that may have gone unseen and helps identify new opportunities for improvement.
Benefits of an Issue Log
One of the most apparent benefits of an issue log is the level of transparency it provides teams with its clear documentation, definition and classification of issues within the project. However, issue logs bring many more benefits beyond that, including their ability to:
- Improve communication and collaboration amongst team members with clearer accountability and documentation.
- Simplify task delegation and prioritisation activities by clarifying the status and severity of each issue.
- Nurture proactive problem-solving practices within teams
- Upgrade organisational record keeping and documentation
- Create cost and time savings during issue responses that increase overall productivity
- Ease issue management burden on team members by making it easier to track and meet crucial deadlines
- Facilitate better organisational learning by giving teams valuable historic data on issue management actions and performance
- Enable greater stakeholder engagement and management
Components of an Issue Log
The specific components of an issue log may vary depending on the type of project, industry or software in use. Here are some of the most common issue log components used by project managers today.
Issue Name and/or Number
This is a unique identification name or number that is assigned to a single issue. This number can be particularly useful for integrating data across platforms and software.
Issues may fall into different categories that project teams may want to be able to filter out. Teams can introduce different issue types by categorising them by department, vendor, product or team.
This section describes the issues of the project in detail. These are typically comprehensive, concise yet easy to understand to make sure any person reading can easily understand the issue at hand and do not require too much additional information. We recommend the formal structure of an issue statement, mentioned in this blog post.
This identifies the different resources needed to resolve the issue such as human resources, equipment or materials.
It is important to include the name of the person who reports the problem to streamline communication if more details are required and simplify stakeholder management activities.
Also referred to as the open date, the reported date helps gives the team a proper time frame for expected issue response and resolution. With a clear reported date, teams can properly prioritise the right tasks and ensure they are resolving issues in a timely manner.
This determines the level of severity or immediacy of an individual issue. Teams can tap into the power of an issue matrix to help identify the specific issue-level at any given time. The typical priority levels include ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ or can also be visually represented through a ‘traffic light’ system.
This section is used to delegate responsibility and ownership over the specific issue and the ensuing tasks to other team members. Though it is typically best practice to allocate a single issue owner, different tasks and actions may be further delegated by the issue owner themselves and maintaining that clarity is critical.
Target Resolution Date
This is the set deadline for when the team is expected to have resolved the issue. This is typically allocated based on the issue-level and the reported date. This helps maintain accountability within teams while also ensuring teams are meeting expectations and helping projects run smoothly.
This describes the progress of the issue resolutions and is typically indicated through different labels such as ‘open’, ‘implementing’, ‘in-progress’, or ‘resolved’.
This section provides a brief outline of the final agreed-upon solution and how it will be or has been implemented. This can later be referenced for future projects to allow teams to remember how they overcame similar issues.
This section allows team members to add any additional relevant notes regarding the issue that can help simplify communication needs or support future historic learning activities.
Integrating issue logs with RAID logs to elevate risk and issue management activities
While issue logs are a valuable tool, there are other types of logs that can help elevate your overall risk and issue management activities. Instead of having the individual risk and issue logs, RAID logs consolidate key aspects related to project risks so your team can have more holistic visibility and control.
RAID is an acronym for Risk, Issues, Assumptions, and Dependencies, and through a RAID log teams can easily track risks, their ensuing escalations and impacts on project progress. To learn more about how you can start using RAID Logs, make sure to check out our guide to RAID Logs or book a free trial to see it all in action!