Issue Management is sometimes an overlooked part of day-to-day project management and project management software. It involves managing the issues that arise in a project that threaten the successful completion of that project. Once we plan a project, it almost never goes according to plan. For example, resources may get siphoned off to a higher priority project, a customer may want to change the scope at the last minute, or something may have been done incorrectly and needs to be reworked. All of these are examples of issues that need to be managed correctly.
Many project management software tools, including EnterPlicity, have Issue Management built into them. One of the primary advantages of this is reporting: how many issues do we have, what is the open issues list across all projects, how many did we close, etc. But what if you need to use Excel for your issue tracking? Here are four quick trips to building a good issue management log in Excel.
1. Don't be too simple.
In other words, don't just list the issues. You need to include information to help you manage each issue. This should include the date that you opened (or discovered) the issue, the date the issue was closed (or resolved), the status of the issue (is it open or closed), the priority of the issue (high, medium, low), the owner of the issue, the project, and any current notes on the issue. This will allow you to know which issues to focus on (priority) and who is responsible for resolving the issue (owner). Review these continuously and monitor their progress. You can use drop down lists for your priority and status fields (see this article).
2. Keep your issues together.
Ideally, keep one spreadsheet that contains the issues for all of your projects. That will make it easier for reporting and to create a dashboard sheet. You could keep a separate tab to track the issues of each individual project, but this will make it more onerous. I would add a Project column to your issue log and keep them in one worksheet if at all possible.
3. Keep it Maintained
It doesn't take a lot of work to maintain your issues log. Sort and move closed issues to the bottom or to another worksheet or spreadsheet. Maintain the status of each issue. It is like I tell my kids with their homework. If you plan and stay on top of things each day, it's not so bad. But if you wait and don't keep up with it, it's going to be much harder.
4. Allow Team Members to Submit Issues
Encourage the communication of issues from team members. I would not have them open up your issues log and add issues to it. You need to maintain the integrity of the issues log. But you could have a special spreadsheet just for new issues. In reality, many times team members do not want to have to find and open up a file and submit an issue. At least encourage them to email issues, and then you can place them into the issue log (assuming it is actually an issue). You want people to communicate issues so that you know about them right away and are not surprised in the middle of a meeting with your senior management.
In the next post, I will show you how to create an issues dashboard, such as showing issues opened and closed in a given month or a list of the current hot issues.