8 Steps for Better Issue Management


Issues happen. And if you want your project to be a success, you need to have a plan in place to respond quickly and effectively to any issues that arise. These steps are part of a best practice issue management process and are a core essence of good project management.

What Is Issue Management?

Issues are anything that comes up in the course of your project to impact the plan. Issues might be previously defined risks, or not. What you want to avoid is a form of collective project amnesia where issues come up and never get resolved. (Issues have a funny way of resurfacing when they don’t get resolved.)

Issue management in a project begins with a plan that defines activities and business rules to manage and control issues that arise during a project.

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Issue Tracking Template

Use this free Issue Tracking Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


Types of Project Issues

Of course, the first thing you need to do for issue management is to identify the issues. There can be many issues, some of which fall under these four categories.

  1. Major Problem: one that could impede progress or the successful completion of the project and requires immediate attention.
  2. Opportunity: not all issues are bad, some can offer an unforeseen opportunity.
  3. Concern: is not a major problem, but it’s something you want to stay aware of, because it could develop into something that requires attention.
  4. Situation: is another issue that might be a concern or a major problem, but develops from a situational standpoint.

Some examples of these issues are problems with staff of suppliers, technical failures, material shortages or delays and super-successful promotion.

8 Steps for Consistent Issue Management

There is so much to know about issue management. It’s a big topic and one that every project manager will have to deal with during their project.

Unlike risk, an issue is not a potential problem. An issue is happening in the here and now.

Managing issues is no different than managing a project in that it requires a process and a plan to implement the strategy. These steps will help you have a framework to control issues as they arise in your project.

1. Create Register

The only way to start is by identifying issues and collecting them in a document so that you can start to respond and track progress in resolving them. Ideally, create a collaborative document online. In the same way, you might manage risks or changes, you want to manage issues by tracking them in a log or register. Without a process or a tool to report on the issue, it’ll be lost in the shuffle of the project. You need to report on issues and notify others so that others can confirm if the issue remains.

Free issue tracking template
ProjectManager’s free issue tracking template. Download now.

2. Report Promptly

Timing is important. If you allow reporting to lag, you lose the opportunity to resolve the issue before it becomes too large to fix or requires so many resources as to be a project-buster. Communication is key and channels must be open to get that information out to the right people as fast as possible. If you’re reporting promptly, you better resolve promptly. Sitting on a known issue is asking for trouble.

3. Log Issues

Make sure people know who can log issues and that they do so. If there isn’t someone who logs the issue, then you are going to have issues falling through the cracks. That makes more cracks in your project until it eventually just falls apart. You want to keep a detailed record of this process. There is nothing too small. It might seem insignificant to you, but it could hold the key to unlocking the solution to the issue. Plus, a log provides an archival tool for future use.

4. Assign Actions

Put a name next to the action, too, so there is clear responsibility defined. Issues are only resolved when there is clear ownership, someone who is tasked with identifying, tracking and closing the issue. You need to have a point person who is tasked with everything related to that issue and doesn’t move on from it until the issue is closed. Accountability is critical in issue management.

5. Monitor Progress

Are people following up on their action items? Validate status regularly. The status of the issue is a crucial distinction. If the issue has been resolved but resources are still working on it unnecessarily, then that’s another issue. Notify everyone frequently. To prevent allocating unneeded resources to an issue, you want to have complete transparency. Everyone must know the status of the issue to work most efficiently. Project dashboards can keep everyone aware of the issue status.

6. Assess Impact

Define the escalation scale and make sure the actions taken are being measured. But escalate appropriately. You don’t want to throw all your resources where only some are needed. That said, you also don’t want to create any unnecessary roadblocks to stall a speedy recovery.

7. Approve Resolution

Make sure that issues are double-checked after they are marked as resolved. While there is an owner to the issue, there must be someone who is managing the process, so they can check the work and make sure it aligns with the overall project and strategic goals of the organization. Only once all those ducks are in a row can the issue be closed.

8. Close It Out

That’s when we come to our final step. Closing the issue. Move resolved issues off the list. That feels good, doesn’t it?

More Free Templates to Help with Issue Management

Issue management is difficult without project management software to connect teams in real time and help managers keep track of those issues as they work toward being resolved. But if you’re not ready to invest in those tools there are other means to manage the issue management process. ProjectManager has dozens of free project management templates that can help. Here are just a few.

Project Dashboard Template

Once you have that issue tracking template, you’ll want to complement it with our free project dashboard template for Excel. While it doesn’t update in real time like on our software, you can see use it to track the progress and performance of your team as they work on resolving project issues.

Project Status Report Template

You have your issues in templates that can help you track the progress, but you’re also going to have to report on that progress to your stakeholders. That’s where our free project status report template for Excel comes in handy. There’s a space for the data you need to keep stakeholders updated here, from key project highlights to those action items that need immediate attention.

3 Things to Avoid in Your Issue Management Process

There are many things you can do to help your issue management process. Just as important are those things you need to avoid. When working on issue management, be sure you don’t fall into these bad practices.

  1. Not Using an Issue Log: It might feel as if an issue log is just one more useless piece of paperwork. When issues arise, just resolve them. But an issue log is a place where teams can identify issues, managers can analyze, track and record their resolution for future reference.
  2. Not Identifying Issue Type: Knowing the type of issue you’re dealing with helps you track and assign the right team members. There are differences between technical, business process and resource issues and they require different approaches.
  3. Not Noting Issue Status: Again, it might feel like a waste of time, but knowing the status of an issue (open, investigating, implementing, escalated or resolved) is essential when tracking issues throughout your project.

ProjectManager and Issue Management

Issues are unavoidable. They’re a part of managing any project. That’s why ProjectManager, online project and work management software, has simple issue management tools that track issues in real time.

Kanban Boards for Issue Management Workflows

Get transparency into your team’s process as they identify and resolve project issues with kanban boards. Multiple project views mean managers can plan with Gantt charts while teams work with kanban boards that allow them to manage their backlog and collaboratively plan sprints. Managers can customize workflow to automate task approvals and oversee their work to reallocate resources as needed to avoid bottlenecks.

Real-Time Dashboards for Issue Tracking

Further oversight is provided with real-time dashboards that require no setup. The live dashboard automatically captures project data, crunches the numbers and displays time, cost and more metrics on colorful graphs and charts.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Reports to Fine-Tune Your Issue Management Process

One-click reporting keeps you on top of progress and provides detailed data for presenting issue resolution to stakeholders. All reports, from status reports to timesheets, can be filtered to show only the data you want to see. Share with stakeholders as a PDF or printout.

ProjectManager's status report filter

When you put it all together, ProjectManager is the ideal software for managing project issues. Get started for free today!

If you want to learn more about project issues, watch the tutorial video below.

Watch a Video on Managing Project Issues

If you’re more of a visual learner, ProjectManager has you covered. We have hundreds of training videos on our site and even more blog posts that focus on every aspect of project management. In this tutorial video, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, gives you the basics on managing project issues.

Here’s a screenshot for your reference.

Issue Management Tips Whiteboard screenshot

Good luck with your projects!

Pro tip: An issue can be a risk that has come to pass in your project, so it makes sense to brush up on how to manage project risk. There’s a process for managing risk that can also help with managing issues.