When problems arise in the course of a project, the project’s resources are often the first people to see them. That’s why effective communication is so important between resource and project manager. Microsoft’s Project Server 2002 provides issue-tracking features that aid in this communication. The Issues portion of Project Server Web Access provides a way for users to capture information about issues, respond to them, and link them to individual tasks and even to other issues. It provides a place for the team to see what is coming and stores that information in a place where everyone who needs the info can get to it and respond.

Part 2

In the first part of this series, I discussed how to use timesheets in Project Server. In this article, I’ll cover documents and issues, and in the final installment, I’ll examine Project Server status reports. So be sure to check back soon.

In this example, resource Dell Griffith has just been assigned to work on a new task, Draft Functional Specification, as you can see in Figure A.

Figure A

Dell has yet to start and already he has noticed a problem. He knows that the information he needs from the product management group will not be ready until at least Oct. 11, which is the date of the project deadline. From his view, it looks like Neil Page, the project manager in this example, is not aware of this problem. Dell decides to use the Issues feature of Project Server to let Neil know about the problem.

To link an issue to his task, Dell first selects the project’s row on his timesheet. Then he clicks the Link Issues button on the toolbar. Figure B shows the first of the Issues screens that Dell will see.

Figure B

This is the Link Issues page for the task called “Draft Functional Specification.” You can see that at this point there are not any issues listed here. When Dell clicks the New Issue button, he’ll see the new Issue screen, where he can fill in the problem’s specifics. You can see this screen in Figure C.

Figure C

The screen has fields for a title, the current status of the issue, the priority level, to whom the issue has been assigned, the owner of the issue, and a suggested due date. It also has a Discussion field where Dell can write out a short description of the problem. This field is also where the project manager might document the ongoing status of the issue as he or she works to resolve it. The last field is the Resolution field, where whoever solves the problem can document the solution for future reference.

The bottom of the screen has several links that allow Dell to link this issue to tasks that it might affect, other issues that might be related, documents that might help to describe the issue, and special tasks that a project manager (PM) might add to resolve the issue. In this case, the PM might add a new task that has the Product Management team working over the weekend to get the materials ready for Dell to start on the specification on Monday.

When Dell is satisfied with his comments on the issue, he clicks the Save Changes button and the issue is entered into the database. Back in Dell’s Tasks view, shown in Figure D, you can see that a new icon has been added to Dell’s task showing that there is an Issue linked to it.

Figure D

At this point, Neil will get an e-mail letting him know that one of his resources has submitted a new issue. When Neil logs into Project Server Web Access, he’ll see a link under the Issues section of his Home page alerting him that he has an Active Issue, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Clicking this link will bring up the View and Submit Issues page, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

In this screen, Neil can see the issue that was submitted by Dell. He also has several filtering options available to him via links on the left side of the page. The active filter is the “All active issues assigned to me” filter. These choices allow users to deal with the potentially large number of issues that can be submitted during the course of a project. Other, more detailed filtering options are available by clicking on the Filter button.

Neil can click on the title of Dell’s issue to open the Issue so that Neil can see the details, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

At this point, Neil and Dell would probably discuss the problem in detail. Best practice would then dictate that Neil make note of the conversation and any other progress by editing the issue and adding comments to the permanent record. Clicking the Edit Issue link will open it in a new screen that can be edited, as seen in Figure H.

Figure H

Figure H shows the comments that Neil has added to the Discussion and Resolution fields. Once Neil clicks the Save Changes link, Dell will be sent an e-mail letting him know that an update to an issue that he opened has been made.

When Dell logs in and checks his Tasks View, he will see that the start date for his Functional Specification task has been delayed a week. When he clicks on the Issues link for this task, he’ll see that this is because Neil has decided to delay this task to allow the Product Management team time to compile their research.

This kind of documentation is important for project management because it allows Neil, three months from now, to figure out why Dell’s Specification task had to be delayed a week. It also acts as a reminder that they need to remember to allow more time for the product managers to do their jobs.