They say in business that the key to success is the three “Ls” – Location, Location, and Location! Well, in the world of project management, the most important key to success is the three “Cs” – Communication, Communication, and Communication! Among all of the roles a project manager fills on a project, including planning, managing, executing and mediating between all parties to the project, the most important role is communication. And within communication, one of the most important responsibilities of the project manager is tracking and communicating project issues.
Every project has issues. Some have a few while others could have hundreds over the life of a project. Project issues include specific problems that need to be resolved by the project team, concerns raised by management or external parties that need consideration by the project team, legal compliance issues to be addressed and tasks that need to be completed prior to Go-Live, especially if they pose a risk to the successful completion of the project.
Project issues should be communicated to the project manager as soon as they arise and tracked in some fashion such as an Excel spreadsheet, MS Word document table, MS Access database or some other tracking tool. The project manager should update this information with new issues and also update for any updates/resolutions to existing issues. Each issue should be issued an ID such as an item number for easy reference and have at least the following items tracked:
- Issue Title / Summary
- Date Issue Raised (and possibly who raised the issue)
- Priority (e.g. High, Medium, Low)
- Assigned to/Responsible Person for resolving issue
- Due Date
- Status (e.g. New, Open, In Process, Resolved, Closed, Deferred, etc.)
- Resolution Steps
It is critically important to track and communicate these issues. Why? First, project team members can forget issues assigned to them or even raised by them especially as new issues arise during the course of a project. Critical tasks may go uncompleted which could have detrimental impacts to the project.
Second, the project manager needs to be aware of all aspects of a project, especially issues. Not only does the project manager need to ensure issues are resolved in a timely manner, but must also be able to manage who is involved in issue resolution, track the timeline for resolution and assess impacts on the project overall.
And finally, the project manager must be able to communicate these issues those who have a material interest in the project including the project team (preferably on a periodic basis such as daily or weekly), client project management, client steering committee and implementation partners. They look to the project manager for a status of the project; communicating issues and the plans to resolve and mitigate issues is of primary importance to these entities.
Since issues can be the lifeblood and even potential downfall of any project, the key role of the project manager to handle and communicate issues cannot be overstressed. By successfully addressing and managing issues in a timely fashion, the project has a greater chance of success to Go-Live and beyond.