What is an Issue Log?

What is an Issue Log?

Pradip, PMP

Last updated July 27, 2017

In the lifecycle of a project, a project manager will always face issues that can have an impact on the project. An issue log is a vital project document that helps the project manager deal with these issues. It is also an important study topic for the PMP®certification  exam. Let's take a look at how an issue log helps and also understand the key differences between risks and issues. 
What are issues?
Issues are problems, gaps, inconsistencies, or conflicts that occur unexpectedly in the lifecycle of a project. Issues can include problems with the staff or suppliers, technical failures, material shortages, or any other problem which might have a negative impact on the project. If issues remain unresolved , the project manager might face unnecessary conflicts, delays or failures in producing the deliverables. Issues can also have an impact on the stakeholder expectations in the project.

What is the difference between an issue and a risk?
While managing risks or issues, a project manager follows similar processes in which he identifies the potential or actual problem and determines their impact on the project . He also determines clear ownership and sets goals with specific objectives and dates. However, there are some fundamental differences between an issue and a risk.
A Risk is an uncertain event or condition that , if it occurs in future , may have a positive or a negative impact on at least one objective of the project .Therefore the project team can plan risk responses and strategies to manage these risks which are identified or endeavor to avoid them entirely. Usually, the project team has the time to consider alternative approaches and implement one or more strategies to manage these identified risks . Risk management is usually strategic and proactive.
Conversely, an issue is something that is impacting the project already and needs to be resolved. This means that issue management is reactive and requires urgent tactical action.
For example, being unable to find skilled resources for a particular technology is a risk to the project . However , if a skilled team member suddenly meets with an accident and is hospitalized for 2 weeks , it is an issue.

What is an issue log?
The issue log is a project document where all the issues are recorded and tracked. When an issue log is created, it provides a tool for reporting and communicating all that is happening within the project.
By maintaining an issue log , a project manager is able to raise issues and ensure that they are investigated and resolved quickly and effectively. This in turn can help him deliver the project within budget and on time.
According to the PMBOK® Guide, in the Manage Project team process, the project manager works to keep the project team at their optimal best by managing issues related to human resources. These issues include resources leaving the project , individuals suffering from low morale, or teams experiencing conflicts. All of these issues can directly affect objective measures such as the budget, the schedule, and the quality.

An issue log is an important tool which is used to manage these issues. It helps the project team to record issues that require resolution. Along with each issue , the person or people responsible for resolving the issue is also documented.
In the Manage Stakeholder expectations process, the project manager works to identify and resolve stakeholder concerns in a proactive and timely manner. This process helps in ensuring that no issues raised by stakeholders mushroom into problems that can adversely impact the project. An issue log is an important input for this process since any issue that the project is encountering would be very relevant to be brought into the process. Issues can disrupt project performance and can certainly have an impact on stakeholder expectations. To create an issue log, a project manager can build his own spreadsheet or database, or buy an issue management software from amongst a wide variety of vendors.
What are the components of an issue log?
A project manager can successfully manage his issues if he is able to focus on the type of information that is tracked rather than the issue tracking mechanism used in the project.
We can include the following information in an issue log:
  • Issue Name : The name of the issue can be recorded .
  • Issue Type : By defining the categories of the issues that are likely to be encountered in the project, a project manager can track issues and assign them to the right people to resolve them. A few categories that can be included in this column are as follows:
Technical : These are the technical issues in the project .

Resource : These are issues related with human resources , equipment or materials in the project.

Third Party : These are issues related with vendors , suppliers or any outside third party .
  • Raised By : The name of the person who raised the issue can be recorded in this column.
  • Date Raised : The date when the issue was raised can be recorded in this column.
  • Description : The issue can be sufficiently described in this column. The description of the issue can include the impact that the issue may have in the project and the project objectives which may be affected by these issues.
  • Priority : A priority rating can be assigned to each issue in this column. Priority ratings can be high , medium or low, based on the impact the issue may have on the project.
  • Assigned To: The name of the person who is responsible for the issue can be included in this column .This person may or may not be responsible for resolving the issue. However, he or she is responsible for tracking the issue and ensuring that the issue is handled based on its priority.
  • Target Resolution Date: The deadline for resolving this issue can be included in this column.
  • Status: The progress in the resolution of the issue can be tracked in this column. The progress can be indicated through labels like open, implementing or resolved.
  • Final Solution : A brief description of the solution that was implemented to resolve the issue , can be included in this column.

Sample template of an Issue Log The following table illustrates a sample template of an issue log: 

issue log table 

Thus, an issue log is an effective tool which helps a project manager record, track, and managing issues in a project.

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About the Author

Pradip Dwevedi, PMP is currently the Lead PMP Trainer / Corporate Trainer at Reputed Global R.E.P.s, India and also the Head – Project Management at Invida Trans IT Solutions PVT LTD. Prior to this, he was Divisional Manager at Stylo Graphic Imaging and before this he was working as Facilitator/Team Leader at Aptara.


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