Crowd Sourcing to Improve the Issue Management Process

While issue management is not specifically addressed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), it is a key process necessary for effective project management. An issue is something that requires a decision made and associated actions performed. It is a situation that has occurred or will occur, as oppose to a risk that is a potential of a situation to occur. Typically, issues are tracked from a simple whiteboard, to a spreadsheet, to a full scale issue tracking and management system.

Issue management systems serves its purpose. However, it requires issues to be categorized and classified by the project management team. Feedback by the project team or end users require each issue to be assigned and prioritized. Often, team members and end users complain about the lack of transparency on the prioritization process. What gets ranked critical vs. high vs. low priority. In a previous post, I introduced you to using IdeaScale as a tool to solicit customer feedback and ideas. An alternative use of the tool is to implement it as an issue management system. Rather than priorities defined and assigned in a top down approach, using IdeaScale allows you to “crowd source” a bottom up approach.

Here are the conceptual steps to process from issue submission to closing.

  1. Team member (and end user) identifies an issue or or problem that requires attention or decision.
  2. The team member logs onto the IdeaScale portal and submits the issue.
  3. All team members (and end users) access the portal to review the issues list, and vote up or down, the priorities of each issue.
  4. Over time, and with critical mass usage of the portal, priority issues will rise to the top while less important issues will remain at the bottom. Ideas that reach a critical threshold (through the voting mechanism) will be assigned to an owner and tracked as part of the project management process.
  5. After the issue is addressed and resolved, the “idea” is closed by the site administrator.

Develop Issue Management and Escalation Procedures

The first step to building an issue management process is to document the associated procedures. The State of California Office of System Integration defines the issue and escalation process as follows:

The Issue and Escalation Process describes how the project identifies, tracks and manages issues and action items that are generated throughout the project life cycle. The process also defines how to escalate an issue to a higher-level of management for resolution and how resolutions are documented.

Since the focus of this article is to crowd source the tracking of issues, here is a great example by the State of California, Office of System Integration – Issue and Escalation Process.

Implement IdeaScale to Capture and Monitor Issues

As shown below, the IdeaScale entry page can be customized to collect the information you need to properly manage the issues submitted. By default, the required fields include title/subject and description. In this example, I included stakeholders affected, due date, decision required, and suggested action. A category field is used to segregate issues vs. suggestions. As team members and end users submit their ideas, it gets included in the issues list. Other end users and team members can log into the portal and vote up, and down, the issues that are relevant to them.

Issue-Submission

For the IdeaScale method of issue tracking and management to work, it requires a critical mass of users. Crowd sourcing a task requires active participation in the community. If only a handful of users actual log in and submit issues and vote, then it emulates the traditional form of issue management. However, if a large enough group of users consistently log in and participate actively, then the concept of crowd sourcing issue management will work.

The bottom up approach of issue management increases transparency in the process. Users are part of the discussion and actually have input through the voting mechanism. The community polices itself and prevents abusers from rigging the system. Through IdeaScales API’s, the issue management system can be integrated to the project portals such as SharePoint, or other project management tools.

Bottom Line

As with any tool, whether it be a simply paper list, Excel spreadsheet, or a crowd sourced IdeaScale issue tracking system, it does not replace good project management and communication with the team. Before attempting to implement the described process, determine if the readiness of the project team and willingness to participate in the process.

[Daniel Hoang advises governmental agencies, business, and individuals on performance management, business processes, and strategic planning to improve organizational development and long-term growth. He is an experienced consultant, auditor, and strategic planner, and has over 10 years of online social media and social networking experience.]

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