Issue tracking is a generic term that can mean all things to everyone. In a business context, from complaint management to IT help desk to scheduled building maintenance, what we define as an issue can refer to any task or activity occurring in the course of an ordinary day’s work. When an issue has consequences or time sensitivity or relevance to business success, tracking how that issue is resolved takes on a greater significance.
Issues become more sensitive and tracking more critical during times of change. An organization that’s undergoing rapid expansion will suddenly have a lot more to keep track of than before it began to grow. Similarly, you may be able to handle IT help desk requests using a spreadsheet or email system if things are the way they’ve been for years. But if you’re moving or adding substantial numbers of staff or putting new systems into place – the spreadsheet begins to show the strain.
The need to track issues is not confined to IT or customer service. Marketing, finance, facilities management, human resources and retail organization all manage recurring tasks and externally driven activities like complaint management. What’s surprising is that departments across the board struggle to stay current with spreadsheets when issue tracking software makes the whole process so much more efficient.
No matter what the issue, when it is reported, three challenges instantly arise: capturing the issues, acting on them effectively, and being able to report on how the issue was resolved. That last point is critical; one of the most frequent complaints about organizational process is that problems that are heatedly discussed at one meeting are subsequently ignored. It’s as if the process of discussing them is enough to make them disappear. But that’s not the way to build customer or employee satisfaction.
What’s critically important is to ensure there is a process for capturing business-critical issues and tracing their path to resolution. Moreover, if you have a central repository of regularly occurring issues, you can easily analyze that data and use it to make strategic decisions.
This all starts with putting in place a central issue tracking software system that is accessible to everyone in your organization.
Here are the three key reasons why you need to have a formal issue tracking system:
- You can keep track of every issue that has been raised, whatever the department or the nature of the problem. If someone finds a solution to a frequently asked question, or one area of the business is doing better than others at managing everyday issues, you can capture these best practices and apply them more widely throughout the organization. An issue tracking system allows you to rapidly access answers and information, and maintain a dashboard tracking the history of issues and solutions, creating reports, monitoring and sharing far more effective.
- You can monitor any action that has been taken on the issue. Once an issue has been submitted, you need to know who is responsible for solving the query. If it needs to be escalated or dealt with by another department, the issue tracking software will show the status of the query, the project ‘ownership’, and prevent a complex issue from getting lost. A good issue tracking system will allow you to track any actions taken on an issue with a quick glance at a dashboard, including automated reminders and status updates.
- You can keep people informed about what has happened with each issue. This is key for customer satisfaction and business efficiency. The more issues there are, the more potential answers, the greater the number of staff who could interact with the issue – all these factors mean that issues can easily become lost or confused. An issue tracking system will streamline the management of even the most complex set of queries, complaints or special requests. People who believe they have been heard, understood and answered are far more likely to remain loyal customers or efficient, satisfied employees.
Within every organization, individuals and departments are managing day-to-day processes using Post-It Notes, email systems and spreadsheets. The stress of manual monitoring and management is considerable, and consistently leads to mistakes, inefficiencies, and lack of clarity about issues. As organizations grow, micro-hiccups in issue management become major organizational challenges. What’s surprising is that it needn’t be this way. Issue tracking software systems are easy and intuitive – and very affordable. Any organization can improve its bottom line, staff satisfaction and customer retention using issue tracking software. The question is, why don’t more people get off the spreadsheet/email treadmill and on to an easier system. Maybe we like the misery?