An issue log is a simple list or spreadsheet that helps managers track the issues that arise in a project and prioritize a response to them. An issue is any roadblock or unintended impact that directly affects your project’s timeline and or performance. It’s different than a risk, which can be defined as a potential problem or future issue that might happen in your project. An issue is something that has already come up in your project, and you need to identify and track that issue immediately.
We have created a simple Excel Issue Log template you can download for free. It’s an easy way for you to manage those issues that always disrupt a project and resolve them before they develop into a problem that takes the project off-track and grounds it in failure.
What Are the Components of an Issue Log?
An issue log is at its most basic a list where issues are collected as either ongoing or closed. This way you can track the issue from the time it’s identified until you have resolved it.
But an issue log can be more dynamic. They can order and organize issues by type and severity, which can help you prioritize and manage them. Therefore, you want to have column titles such as the following.
- Issue Number: If you want to track the issue, you should have an easy way to differentiate it from the others, because there’ll always be more than one.
- Status: It’s important to note whether the issue is open, in progress, blocked or done. This is where you’ll keep track of resolving it.
- Issue Description: Write down what the issue is is detail. It might sound obvious, but you don’t want to have the same issue tracked repeated in your log, and you want the person who will resolve the issue able to clearly understand what has happened, so they don’t have to chase people up and delay the response.
- Category: You might want to categorize issues by department or vendor, or define the type of issue it is. These might vary depending on the project or team.
- Priority: You might not have time or resources to address every issue, so it’s crucial that you prioritize them. Are they low, medium or high priority? Now you can filter the log and work on those issues that are most important to the project.
- Assigned to: This is also of paramount importance. If the issue doesn’t have an owner it’s likely never to get resolved. This is where you note the team member who is assigned to follow that issue to its resolution.
- Raised by: This is different than the assigned to owner, who will shepherd the issue through the project and work on resolving it. This person is the one who first identified it, and they should be noted here, as they might prove a resource later in terms of answering questions that work towards its resolution.
- Open Date: You want to have a time-frame, and to do so you must have a beginning, which is the day the issue was identified.
- Closed Date: Now you have a firm timeline from start to finish, which can help when and if you go back to look at historic data when dealing with a similar issue in a later project.
- Comments: You always want space to jot down important information like how the issue was resolved, whether it was connected to another task, and likelihood of recurrence, etc.
How to Use an Issue Log
Now that you know the basic framework for creating an issue log, how do you use an issue log when managing a project? An issue log is a great tool to have in your project management toolbox. It can help you manage both your team and stakeholders.
That’s because an issue log delivers more than just a resolution of the issue, but creates trust and satisfies your stakeholders that you’re handling the project promptly and properly. Stakeholders and your team will feel they’re being heard and these issues won’t impact the project.
You’ve already created the issue log, which is great. It should, at best, be a collaborative document, or even better, integrated with your online project management tool. At a minimum, if you can share it online, so everyone has access to it, though some collaborative spreadsheet or project management tool, then you’ve streamlined the process and made sure that no issue gets lost in paperwork.
The next step is logging in an issue once it’s been identified. You can do this online, where the person who first notes the issue has the responsibility to put it in the log. But it might be more helpful if someone is assigned as the point person. Then the team knows to go to them and they know it’s their responsibility to log the issues as they arise. Either way, you must make sure this process is being done.
Now you can follow the protocol of the issue log we outlined above. First, that means assigning someone to take on that issue as their own. They are responsible for working on a resolution and tracking the progress of that action through the course of solving the issue.
While all this is going on, you cannot rest on the authority of the issue log. It’s just a document, and depending on if you have it online or in some tool, it is basically a static one. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to monitor the issue log, regardless of whether it’s a document or part of a larger software tool. The final responsibility for the resolution of these issues doesn’t sit on the shoulders of those who are assigned to own it, but on your own.
Part of the monitoring process is assessing the impact of the issue and the actions in place to resolve it. Maybe you need to put all your resources on this one issue, but maybe that level of attention and effort is counterproductive. So, you must know what issues need escalating and which don’t.
Along those lines, you want to ensure your actions are right for the issue at hand. Maybe this issue can wait. Maybe it needs immediate attention. That, of course, can change, which is why monitoring and continual assessment are important. You can see how the ProjectManager.com dashboard lets you see your issues in one simple view, so you can monitor their progress alongside your other project metrics.
While a team member might have ownership of the issue, once a course of action is developed to address it and, hopefully, resolve the issue, it’s now up to you to make final approval before implementing. Then you must make sure the plan is in fact effective and resolving the issue. If it’s not, then it’s back to the drawing board.
Last but not least, the best part is when the issue has been resolved. Now you can strike the issue off your issue log. It feels good, doesn’t it?
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that can help you better manage the issues in your project. You’re online and connected to your team, getting real-time data, which keeps you more on top of the issue and better equipped to resolve it. Try it out for yourself and see what it can do for you and your teams, with this free 30-day trial.