The issue management plan (ISM) is basically a representation of how a company or an individual will deal with technical, environmental, and project-specific issues. While such issues exist or will inevitably appear, ISM’s purpose is to discuss and identify possible solutions.
The issue management plan is usually used for problem tracking and management reporting. For problem tracking, ISM is shared with company members to understand what the issues actually are and to find a way to fix them. For management reporting, ISM is intended to raise the awareness of concerns.
Including details on specific issues and their potential resolution, ISM allows managers to take adequate decisions and to avoid issues related to general conditions instead focusing on project-specific details. The project manager and the team understand the real problem and identify solutions while regularly updating the status of the problem through the end of the project. Some ISM include ownership designations for issues been addressed to make sure that someone is actually tracking the status on the issues and escalate them to a higher level if necessary.
Even though issue management and risk management are somehow similar terms, the key of ISM is to differentiate one from another. The distinction is the nature of the two: while the issue exists, risks may raise.
Below is the logical structure of a basic ISM.
Because issues already exist and risks are future phenomena, they need different types of approaching and assessment. Team managers, members and customers have to make this clear differentiation. To make clear-issues have to be assessed in real-time and risks in terms of possibility. The role of issue management plan is to make this statement clear because misconceptions and misunderstandings can lead to mismanagement and ultimately to business failures.