Issue management

One of the foundations of managing software development process is issue management. Done well it enhances the quality of your project. Done badly it will reduce the quality and even more important the perceived quality of the project.

Proper issue management consists of three things which I will elaborate on below:

  • issue management tool
  • collaboration amongst the participants
  • process owner


A tool must support the process that is true for every software tool. However I have found that good tools not only define the process but also make the process fun. Typical key requirements are: an easy to use interface to find, manage and update issues. Notifications via e-mail and or rss and a certain freedom to customize the process to your liking. I have seen and worked with a few tools but have found none better in this area that Atlassian Jira.


Finding and reporting an issue is about adding quality to deliverables. So the more issues you find and solve the higher the quality of the deliverables. Sounds wrong but that is the way it is. Participants must deliver their contribution with this in mind. For me this means responsiveness, clarity and open minded communication. Often I have seen discussions about issues end up in endless games of ping-pong, people asking questions over and over with the objective to postpone and hope somehow that things will go away by itself. Collaboration is best achieved by setting the example. It will take time but it does work.

Process owner

Issue management is a collaborative effort, I do not advice to make it a top down process with a central dispatcher. It is should be as ad-hoc and chatty as possible, where people send back and forth issues as they seem appropriate. However you do need someone who in charge for two reasons. One to find and act on those issues that nobody feels responsible for. And two to take action and enforce a decision when participants tend to disagree.

Two more remarks: issue management is about inventory. If you have too many you loose sight. Constantly organize and prioritize your issues so you can keep overview. When you have 100 issues you do not know where to start. When you have 10 you can easily see where to start. The order in which to tackle them is less important.

Second remark: issue management looks similar to incident management. Tickets, owner, open, assigned, resolved are terms that apply to both. However in the way you need to organize the process they are completely different. With incident management you need to separate the urgent and the less urgent calls and acts accordingly. With issue management progress and quality of communication is more important.


3 Responses to “Issue management”

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