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.

What Are Issues?

Issues are problems, gaps, inconsistencies, or conflicts that occur unexpectedly during the lifecycle of a project. Issues can include problems with the staff or suppliers, technical failures, material shortages, or any other problem that has 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.

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What Is the Difference Between an Issue and a Risk?

While managing risks or issues, a project manager follows similar processes in which potential or actual problems are identified and determines their impact on the project. She 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, 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 or avoid these identified risks. 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 needs to be out of the office for two weeks, it is an issue.

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?

Issue log are documentation elements that are included in software project management and contain a list of active and closed issues. While issue logs can serve as a means of tracking errors within a project, their role often goes beyond that.

The issue log, sometimes also known as an issue register, is a project document where all issues that are negatively affecting the project 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. It’s a lot like a support ticket that’s created when you call a help desk: the problem is logged and given an identifier, then the issue is tracked—all the way through to resolution.

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 project objectives such as the budget, the schedule, and quality. Issues can disrupt project performance and can certainly have an impact on stakeholder expectations.

An issue log is an important tool used to manage these issues and more, by helping the project team to record issues that require resolution. Along with each issue, the person or team responsible for resolving the problem 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 stakeholder or other issues 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 experiences would be very relevant to be introduced into the process. 

To create an issue register, a project manager can build a spreadsheet or database, or buy an issue management software from a wide variety of vendors.

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What Are the Components of an Issue Log?

A project manager can successfully manage issues with the ability to focus on the type of information that is tracked rather than the issue tracking mechanism used in the project.

You might want to include the following information in an issue log example:

  • Issue Name

    The name of the issue can be recorded. In many cases, an issue number is also 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:
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  • Technical Description

     These are the technical issues in the project.
  • Resource

     These are issues related to human resources, equipment or materials in the project.
  • Third-Party

     These are issues related to vendors, suppliers or any outside third party.
  • Reported By

    The name of the person who raised the issue can be recorded in this column.
  • Reported Date

     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 on 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 or team 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 may be included in this column. 
  • Status

     The progress of the issue resolution would 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.

 Issue Log Example

The image below depicts a sample template of an issue log: 

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By maintaining an issue log, a project team is able to raise and document issues—and ensure that they are investigated and resolved quickly and effectively. This, in turn, can help the team deliver the project within budget and on time.

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