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Steps to Problem Resolution in Project Management
By Jason Freih

In the majority of software projects, problems usually fall into one of three areas:

  • Product problems – relating to requirements (business analysis), design or code
  • Project problems – issues relating to environment, resources, schedule, budget and tools (hardware/software)

  • Process problems – project life cycle, methodology, quality assurance

Purpose here is to create a plan providing procedures for managing and resolving problems experienced during a project

Start with:

  • Define Problem Resolution Procedures – a decision can be made by project manager which steps to take, or can be a brainstorming exercise as a team to come up with consensus as to the procurers that should be used within the project.
  • Select Tracking Tools and Techniques – this can be anything from spreadsheets to collaborative online tools.

  • Assign Problem – specific problems can be assigned to those with required expertise

  • Set Schedule for Problem Management Activities – such a weekly meeting to discuss all management activities.

Inputs:

  • Software development plan
  • Problem resolution plan
  • Any other relevant documents

Frequency:

Some would say once per project, updated with each iteration, but if you feel there are higher priorities set the frequency you are comfortable with.

This task is always assigned to the Project Manager.

As a project manager some of the information useful to you could be:

  • Workflow Details
  • Project Management Plan
  • Software Development Plan

The procedure for managing each category of problem varies, using different Change Control Boards, or following different procedures for implementing solutions. The Problem Resolution Plan should describe the process for managing each category of problem separately.

Define Problem Resolution Procedure(s)

The first step in developing your Problem Resolution Plan is to define the procedure to be followed for handling each category of problem, depending your methodology problems can either have triggers or could be time sensitive.

Activity: Handle Exceptions & Problems, based on problems identified in a Status Assessment…

  • by the raising of Change Requests to track defects;
  • through anomalies discovered during reviews, and
  • through non-conformances raised during process audits and reviews.

Status Assessments are created in preparation for scheduled project status reviews. However, the Issues List may be updated on an unscheduled basis during the Activity: Monitor Project Status, if problems are identified that require immediate resolution.

Things to consider are:

  • Method(s) team members will use for raising the problem (e.g. bring up issues during meetings, input items into the Change control or issues database)
  • Determine who is to be involved in assessing the problem and deciding on the best approach for resolution.

  • How will corrective actions be verified as complete, and who will have the authority to sign-off on the change. (Consider the impact of the change and the level of authority it needs to be escalated to)

Select Tracking Tools and Techniques

It is important to maintain a current list or log of identified problems and their status. Different tools may be used for each problem category (e.g. a defect tracking system may be used for managing product problems, while a simple spreadsheet may be used for tracking project problems).

Remember the steps to problem management:

  • Problem identification
  • Problem analysis
  • Problem prioritization
  • Verification of corrective actions
  • Assign Problem Management Team

In most projects, problems arising in the project are reviewed on a regular basis by a resolution team specified team consisting of representatives from each of the area (i.e. project management, development, testing, QA etc). The team assesses each problem in turn, and puts an action plan in place to correct the problem.

Most important of all

Setting a schedule for problem management activities is important to the smooth flow of a project. This gives the project team a reliable and consistent place to raise and solve problems. Depending on your needs this can be a daily, weekly or any other specified time period you and your team feels is required.

Jason Freih has been managing IT projects for over 12 years with many large financial institutions and government organizations. Working primary in Toronto, Canada, as well as consulting overseas he has evolved a management style from different practices – PMBOK, CMM, ITIL, PRINCE2, RUP & Agile. To get more information and help with any Project Management questions you may have visit him at http://www.PMforIT.com.

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