Top 3 Features to Look for in an Issue Tracker

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Look, your project is going to have issues. This isn’t some New Age advice column, but issues are real. And you need a way to track and prioritize those issues, so you can tackle them productively.

Issues are red flags that there are problems ahead. They’re different than risk, which you planned for the best you could when planning for the project. Risk is potential. It might happen and so you’re looking out for it. An issue, however, is imminent or occurring right now. You must deal with it immediately, not abstractly.

How do you do that? Once an issue arises in your project, you should have an issue tracker, either a spreadsheet or a PM software, in which to capture it. An issue is like a pest that is threatening a farmer’s crop. The farmer must first identify it, then track it and finally dispose of it. You should do the same, which is why an issue tracking tool is essential when managing a project.

What Kind of Issue Tracker Is for You?

Anyone can use a simple issue log to track your issues, like the free Excel issue tracking template we have linked above. It works as a simple list, where you can add issues as they arise and also note priority and owner and dates updated. But it can require more work on your part than you might want to do, with all the data entry, in order to keep it updated. And then there’s the problem that you’re working in isolation, on a static document.

Then there is issue tracking software tools that make issue tracking a more collaborative activity, one that can have greater reach and work more effectively on addressing the issues on your project.

Some of the things that software can do that an Excel spreadsheet cannot, include:

  • Collaborate on issue documentation and action
  • Assign issues to team
  • Monitor the work towards resolving the issue
  • Manage the workflow of resolving the issue
  • Automate and notify throughout the process
  • Collect discussions around issue

what you need in an issue tracker

What Do You Need in an Issue Tracking Software?

When you’re managing issues on your project, you’re actively monitoring their progress. So it’s imperative that when you’re choosing issue tracking software, that you have both visibility and flexibility to stay on top of all the issues. Whichever issue tracker tool you decide on, it should have (at least) these three features.

Integrated Project Management Features

Ideally, your issue tracking will be integrated in your project management software. Some people simply document their issues as tasks, within a PM tool. Other tools have dedicated issue tracking features.

Your issue tracker should have all the features you’ll need in your project, and even if it does, it should have the ability to be fully compatible with other popular software, such as Microsoft Office or Google Apps. That way data doesn’t get dead-ended, but flows across all your systems. For example, if you’re using a spreadsheet or more than one tool, then you want to have a software that can import your issues easily, or you’ll be spending much of your day jumping from one app to another.

Integration helps with productivity by putting all your data under one roof, where it can be easily accessed by you and your team. Calendars, documents, everything is updated in one place when it can be viewed and edited by you and your team without overwriting or missing data.

Prioritization

Not all issues are created equally. If you start directing resources to every issue that comes up it’s likely you’ll be working hard on an issue that isn’t really going to impact your project in any meaningful way, while the ones that could potential cause projects to fail are ignored. That’s why it’s crucial to set the priority for each of the issues identified.

Therefore, once you know there’s an issue in the project, you want to have it prioritized as high, medium or low. Make these determinations based on the impact the issue can have on the overall project.

High would mean that there is no workaround or easy fix, the issue will prevent the ongoing progress of the project and in so doing its success. Medium is also an issue that cannot be ignored, but it might only affect an noncentral part of the project. Low priority might have a workaround or just might be a cosmetic or trivial issue that can be addressed later.

With limited resources, you must have this information to know how to divvy up your response. Without this information, you cannot know in what order to start tackling the issues.

Collaboration

Now that you have tools that can bring all the diverse data tools you use to one location and you’ve taken that data and prioritized it, you must work on resolving these issues. You want your issue tracker to foster the collaboration needed to get all your resources together and fix those issues fast.

Having issue tracking software online is essential to creating the groundwork for a collaborative response to any issue. Teams, whether in the same physical space or distributed remotely across the globe now have a common ground in with to dialogue on ideas, share files and archive their work in one place, rather than in the cluttered folder of their email inbox.

Plus, these collaborations are being done in real-time when the issue tracker is cloud-based. If you’re sharing documents and conversations via an email and outside the project space, then you’re not really working together. There are delays or, worse, a black hole in which work disappears.

With everyone on the same virtual page, you’re working more efficiently and productively towards a singular end. The tools your team is using frees them to work independently and take ownership of the issue, all of which leads to a better and quicker resolution. They can meet when they need to, share what they have and communicate with one another as if they were in the same room, regardless of the time or place.

An Issue Tracker Is a Crucial PM Tool

Issues will come up, and when they do you have to have the right software to make sure they don’t get lost, that you don’t waste valuable time trying to figure out what’s happening and assigning the right team member to lead the work towards resolving the issue.

When you’re managing a project, there are a lot of responsibilities. One of the most important is to make sure nothing goes wrong. When it does, and it always does, you should have a tool that gives you team the ability to track and resolve those issues. ProjectManager.com is an online project management software that tracks project issues in real-time, providing your team with the collaborative tools they need to get the issue fixed fast. See for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial.

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