Problems, issues, bugs, defects, action items, punch list, clean up tables – so many synonymous terms for the same underlying concept – tracking known “stuff” and making sure it gets resolved before a product or service is released.   While risk management concerns the known- unknown, management reserves address unknown  -unknown, problem tracking is smack dab in the middle of the here and now.  It’s real!

As there are multiple ways to describe it, there are also dozens of tools to track it.  Over the course of my delivery I’ve used Defect Tracker, Bugzilla, RUP, Spreadsheets (Lotus, Quattro Pro, Excel), Public Folders (Microsoft), Silk, Mercury Tester, Sharepoint, Quick Place and large flowing legal pads with a thing called a pencil.

While using those tools I’ve found a few simple tips help to keep my and my team’s attention focused.  I use the term “AIR”.  It helps breath some fresh air across this stuff and make sure the mildew does not mire your project down!

  1. Create a category for Action Items (issues or problems that have been assigned to a single person with a specific date)
  2. Create a category for Issues / Problems (issues or problems that are known and may transcend your current project or change order)
  3. Create a category for Risks (issues or problems that have not yet occurred but you’ve deemed may occur).
  4. For Action Items and Issues / Problems assign an impact rating if it is not addressed.  The probability is equal to “1″ since it’s a known.  The decision support is how much that issue will impact your project.  Higher impact issues rise up in their priority for fast assignment to an Action Item
  5. Keep the AIR up-to-date with any project scheduling tools you might use (Project, Clarity, etc) – a project schedule is a collection of Action Items (aka tasks).
  6. Review the most pressing, the top 10 action items, issues/problems and risks with your team regularly.  That could mean reviewing those once a week or, if you’re in the midst of an Extreme Programming or SCRUM or similar Agile approach, every day.
  7. Use this to help guide your product and service launches.  Transfer any lingering problems/issues to the operational support team.