Programme and project issues management

An issue is a generic term used in programme and project management to describe any matter that needs to be brought to the attention of the programme or project.

What is issues management?

Issues are outside the control of the programme or project but may have a significant effect on the achievement of objectives and the realisation of projected benefits. Risks are different from issues in that a risk may or may not occur depending on events or circumstances.

Where issues and risks are similar is around the need to take decisions based on an evaluation of their impact on the business case, product or service delivery, resources, costs and timescales. The programme or project manager may be able to make a decision on what action is required or it may need to be raised at programme board or project board level.

Purpose of issues management

Issues management is designed to minimise the negative effects of issues on the programme or project. Issues management follows many of the processes applicable to risk management and these two areas are usually considered in tandem. Issues arising should be recorded in an issues log.

Assessing issues typically classifies them into:

  • a previously identified risk which has now happened and requires the appropriate issue resolution action
  • a required change to some aspect of the programme or project
  • a problem or question affecting all or part of the programme or project in some way

The issues log is a key tool for the programme manager or project manager in the ongoing tracking and monitoring of issue resolution. Just as in risk management, change control (the process of recording, authorising and implementing requests for change) is a key process in monitoring and resolving programme and project issues. It should be closely integrated with wider configuration management arrangements.

Issues management guidance

Issues can be raised by anyone associated with the programme or project and a clear process for raising them should be widely publicised. Issues may arise from a wide variety of sources including:

  • benefits management, transition activities, costs, scope, timescales
  • dependencies, business as usual, operations, resources, products
  • anything that arises from projects in a programme that can’t be resolved
  • stakeholders, organisation, programme or project staff, third parties
  • other programmes or projects underway within the organisation

Issues management roles and responsibilities

The main issues management roles and responsibilities are:

  • senior responsible owner - the SRO must ensure issues resolution activities are operating effectively and that key strategic issues are being dealt with at the appropriate senior level
  • project manager -  in developing the implementation strategies for both risks and issues; issues resolution, as documented on the issues log, will be the down to those indicated as having the relevant levels of authority and responsibility
  • project management office - responsible for managing and co-ordinating the information and support systems to enable the efficient handling of issues; the PMO should own the issue resolution process
  • all staff - based on a clearly stated and published process, everyone associated with the programme or project is responsible for bringing issues to the attention of programme or project manager

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