Working with a client recently I was reminded again of how important an issues tracking system can be, especially during a database system conversion. During a system conversion, if staff is well-engaged during the process, all types of issues will be raised; issues as simple as Where will we store this data in the new system? to as complex as What will our process be for managing events registration?
When issues are raised, there are three challenges faced by the project managers: capturing the issues, acting on the issues, and reporting back to staff about the issues. That last point is critical; one of the most frequent complaints I hear from staff is that issues raised by staff are never addressed. Its not unusual for me to hear staff say: Its as if our comments just go into some kind of black hole.
Whats critically important throughout this process is to ensure there is a process for capturing all of these issues. Part of that process should include an issues tracking software system that is a accessible to all staff.
Here are three reasons why you need to have a formal issues tracking system:
- Keep track of every issue that has been raised whether youre working on a complete database conversion or just doing day-to-day processing, issues arise. Staff may suggest new ideas or may request new functionality. These ideas should be captured, even if they cant be acted upon immediately. An issues tracking system allows you to quickly and easily track these issues and ideas and to keep a history of these suggestions, including tracking the type of issues raised (e.g., business processes, reporting/querying needs, data conversion issues, etc.).
- Keep track of the action that has been taken on the issue Once an issue has been submitted, presumably some action is going to be taken on the issue, even if the action is simply to table the issue until some later dated. A good issue tracking system will allow you to track any actions taken on an issue (e.g., under consideration, completed and closed, needs more info, etc.).
- Communicate to staff what has happened with each issue This is the most important. As noted above, when ideas and issues are coming non-stop, its very easy for an idea or issue to be misplaced. And if staff perceives they are not being heard (or worse yet, actively ignored) they will quickly disengage and the project will be damaged with higher potential for failure.
When managing a project as complex as a database conversion, just promising to respond to issues raised is not good enough. You need to have a system in place where users can submit their concerns and track how those issues are being addressed. Thats what an issues tracking system can do for you .
A modified version of this article appeared in College of Association Marketing e-newsletter.
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