What is an issue tracking system?
Running a business does not mean you’re always sailing over smooth corporate terrain. Whichever sector your company operates in, it is bound to face some sort of challenges when it comes to carrying out daily business tasks.
One way to steer clear of such inevitable hurdles is to implement a dedicated issue tracking system. As the name suggests, “issue tracking” refers to identifying, documenting and resolving various issues that arise over the course of a business’s projects.
These issues include not only technical glitches but also minor defects that crop up in a business’s assets. An issue tracking system solves all your problems in a jiffy; whether they pertain to a software bug or a server upgrade.
If you record your business challenges in the correct manner on the correct platform, you can easily get done with them. This also ensures that you complete your daily operations in time.
Issue tracking is a broad terminology. It encompasses a spectrum of activities under it. In fact, people often confuse it with bug tracking. So to make it easy for you to grasp, we’ll highlight some differences between the two.
Bug tracking typically contends with tracing down bugs after the coding phase is over. These bugs are not only limited to codes but may also exist in product design or specifications.
Help desk or service desk systems, on the other hand, pinpoint issues during all phases of the development and implementation cycles. With quality checks being done at every stage, service desk systems allow you to tackle with defects before they occur.
How does issue tracking work?
Issue tracking may sound like a complicated term at first. But it really is about making a specialized to-do list for your business tasks. It adds an extra layer to your workflow by incorporating a diligent review process, be it your physical assets or software systems.
So instead of having a single completion status, you now have another stage to identify whether all the operations have been adequately reviewed. This practice pulls down chances of errors so they do not slither into the final deployment stage unnoticed.
Issue tracking system allows your staff to request for further investigation as soon as an asset starts showing symptoms of malfunctioning. A key aspect to note here is that of the assigned status of each of the issues; opened versus reopened.
Opened issues have typically been resolved once. Reopened issues, on the contrary, need more than one round of review. They are critical to determining the functionality and useful life of your assets.
For instance, assets associated with numerous reopened tickets depict lower functionality and deteriorating value. You must get rid of such items before you squander any more dollars on repairing them time and time again.
To iron out their issue tracking procedures, most tech-savvy businesses opt for dedicated software solutions. Choosing a suitable issue tracking software system gets half the job done.
You must make sure that the software is not too complex for your business workflow. At the same time, it shouldn’t be extremely simple either, that it’s not able to do much.
However, it is important to take stock of the fact that even the best software can’t help you if it is not used the right way. For issue tracking to play out well, you must first lay down some fundamental goals you want to accomplish using the software.
It also helps to set deadlines so you can get problems reviewed and solved on time.
Key stages of issue tracking for your business
Now that you are familiar with what issue tracking is all about, let’s dive into the various stages involved in issue tracking. Each of these stages can be assigned to different teams.
Nevertheless, the end goal remains the same i.e. to organize your processes better.
A basic approach to issue tracking looks something like this.
1. Capturing data
It is quite common for employees to experience difficulties while operating a piece of equipment. A scanner may not be working due to a broken plug or a hard drive may get corrupted.
When this happens, where do you report all these issues? This is where issue tracking software steps in to save the day. It provides a central database for you to clock in all sorts of bugs, queries and technical issues that shoot up daily.
It gathers functional information of all the pre-recorded assets. This way none of the issues go unnoticed, and you can deal with them in a timely manner.
Once you have data on what the issue is about, you must make a decision on how you go about solving it. It drastically helps to record such decisions for future review purposes.
Doing so allows managers to evaluate whether the right decision was taken, given the available information. It sheds more light on employee performance and how they chose to repair a certain piece of faulty equipment.
Past servicing information aids, even more, when you reopen tickets to solve a recurrent issue. This way, you can modify your service technique as needed.
It is always a smart move to have trained professionals deal with asset issues. Most companies hire IT technicians for issue resolution. Having experts allows business to ensure accountability and authority.
Professionals exercise their expertise during issue resolution and restrict asset usage by other employees. This ensures that no asset data is tampered with while the asset is being fixed.
In case an issue is not rectified in a proper manner, the concerned professional can be traced and held accountable.
Whether you are a small business or a multi-department organization, hundreds of issues come swarming in on a daily basis. Given the time pressed nature of your business, it is often nearly impossible to tackle with all the issues at once.
When this happens, it really helps to prioritize various such instances. You should label problems that need immediate action as “high priority”.
Others that are not so urgent and can be dealt in a few week’s time can be labeled as “low priority”. Issue tracking software makes this process a breeze.
It sorts your issue by their priority status so you can first work on ones that are more urgent.
When you deal with various but similar problems, a documented Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) really helps. You can develop an SOP from previous breakdown instances and implement it whenever a similar situation arises.
This eliminates the need for redundant workflows where you keep digging into the same issue again and again. An issue tracking system keeps tabs on all of your devised SOPs and notifies you which SOP to use under which circumstances.
With a thorough review process in place, you can ensure that all your assets are in top shape. Once an issue has been resolved, you can compare the actual performance of an asset with its expected performance.
If the actual performance lags behind the expected one, then your SOP needs some tweaks for sure and the issue needs to be reopened.
Why does your company need to track issues?
The slightest issue in design, specifications or functionality of an asset can disrupt your entire workflow. For time-sensitive businesses, such challenging scenarios need to be dealt with in time.
Or else businesses run the risk of losing their customers to competing counterparts. This is where you need a rock solid issue tracking software. A dedicated issue tracking system ensures quality control at all stages of your supply chain.
It also truncates unnecessary costs feeding on frequent repairs and lost revenue.
Here are some benefits you can reap a multitude of benefits with an issue tracking software.
1. Prolonged useful life
Trivial maintenance issues, if left unattended, can eventually pile up and take a toll on the useful life of your assets. With issue tracking software in place, you never miss out on such instances.
The software flags up even the slightest of functional problems and they get resolved promptly. This way, you can ensure prolonged useful life of all your assets. Your assets do not drop in value before their disposal time.
2. Higher return on investment
An issue tracking system enables you to prioritize maintenance tasks. This way, you can give due attention to more critical tasks, whereas the smaller insignificant tasks can be scheduled for later.
A hierarchical approach to problem resolution lowers unnecessary repair and development costs. It also improves productivity as you singularly focus on issues that are crucial to running your daily operations.
3. Improved connectivity
Issue tracking software comes saddled with advanced features for easy communication. These include chat interfaces and email notifications that help the concerned team members stay updated.
Instant information across departments reduces the communication gap. When relevant people are informed of an issue, it gets resolved in time. The centralized database of issue tracking software is accessible to all the team.
This lets you spot check for issues without a hitch.
4. Plot defect trends
A key advantage of issue tracking software is that it keeps an exhaustive record of all the issues your assets ever encountered. It also documents who solved an issue and how was it done.
The Reports module of issue tracking software plots defect trends of each of your assets. With revelatory insights on defect trends, you can choose to get rid off the equipment which needs more frequent servicing.
Detailed reports also help you to modify your SOPs if needed.
Bolster performance through third party integrations
Initially, many organizations start off with the most basic management tools to keep things simple. Most businesses still cling onto to spreadsheets to log their list of asset maintenance issues and software bugs.
Although the manual data entry system is easy to teach, its darker side is becoming more and more exposed. Manual data entry is prone to typographical errors and requires more vigilance on your part.
Another problem with working on a static spreadsheet is that you’re working in isolation. Issue tracking software sets a more interactive and flexible atmosphere.
It integrates with many third-party applications so you can collect, sift and analyze data without any development roadblocks. Instant collaboration bleeds into efficient daily operations.
Ideally, a sleek issue tracking system must integrate with other applications, preferably an asset management database. Such integrations allow you to glean over useful insights into the reported defects and rectify them better.
A good example of easy-to-integrate issue tracking systems includes Jira and Zendesk. Both software systems enable users to report issues and extract relevant asset data from the database as needed.
With adequate knowledge of asset specifications and build, you can make the right decision for its issue resolution. When issue tracking software is linked to an asset management system, the reported asset is also checked out for maintenance.
This makes sure that your employees do not use a malfunctioning asset for their daily tasks. In addition to this, easy integration also enables you to group together items with similar issues.
For instance, if a ticket mentions that the ink cartridge in the printer (# 123) needs to be replaced and another printer (# 125) needs the same service done.
You can link the two assets to the same ticket number so both the assets get serviced at the same time. Doing so eliminates redundant workflows and multiple reporting of identical issues.
Issue management becomes a breeze when you can pair your software with third-party applications.
Best practices for issue tracking
Once you’re done selecting the appropriate software, you must stipulate some guidelines on how to make the best use of it. Most businesses follow a set of best practices when it comes to issue tracking to enhance their workflows.
Let’s go over some of them to help you track and manage business issues.
1. Keep the process organized
Robust tracking of issues begins with proper project management. The more organized your issue tracking routine, the lesser overhead and operating costs you will incur.
One way to do this is to keep all the business tasks logically structured. This allows you to trace and tackle any interruptions easily. A streamlined routine results primarily from a centralized and comprehensive database that stores all your business data.
You have a single source to extract information about which asset needs more prompt attention and which vendor to contact.
2. Define your issues adequately
When you start off recording issues with a software, data fields are one of the first elements you should define.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- Which data fields should appear by default on the defect forum when someone wants to report an issue?
- Is there a specific order you want to follow for filling data fields?
- Do you want to put up any read-only fields?
- Which fields are mandatory?
Typically, companies include the following data fields:
- A precise title
- Description of the issue
- Instant directions to rectify the issue
- Who the issue/ticket is assigned to?
- The priority of the defect
- Associated asset/equipment/IT details
Additionally, you may also want to include a field to document screenshots of the issue. But remember not to overdo it by adding too many fields. This simply lengthens the reporting process and discourages employees from reporting issues.
Once you have identified the requisite data fields, be sure not to change them too often. It only creates more chaos and you need to train your employees more frequently.
3. Structure and secure issues
Perhaps, the most effective way to solve issues is to develop an organized platform for your issue reports. Doing so will allow users to quickly search for pre-existing issues.
For this you should consider:
- How do you want to categorize the issues? Issues can be classified by projects, departments or asset groups.
- Does every employee have the same level of authorized access to issues? Or do you want to restrict certain users to gain access into the software?
- Which data fields have limited access?
4. Set up a pathway for the tracking process
You can rectify problems better if you establish a definite pathway on how to go about issue management. With a well-defined procedure in place, none of the issues can go unnoticed.
Furthermore, an organized workflow ensures that team members know their assigned tasks and which procedures they should follow.
You can sort your processes by:
- Determining how to prioritize issues
- Incorporating a ‘testing’ phase to review the issue fix
- Setting up email alerts for every step of the issue management process
Issue tracking software: The most important cog in your operations machine
A rock solid issue tracking system clearly delineates how various types of defects need resolution. For this added level of guidance, most businesses opt for advanced software.
It automates all your issue tracking steps and alerts you of breakdowns or bugs in real time. It also equips you for seamless integration with third-party management applications.
For instance, pairing up issue tracking software with an asset management system increases the efficacy of your processes. You can run both programs side by side, have insights to both asset and defect data and take immediate actions.
A well-grounded issue tracking system is indeed the most important cog in your operations machine.
EZOfficeInventory is the leading issue tracking system. It allows you to track, maintain and report on asset issues from anywhere, at any time. We offer a free 15-day trial – no credit card required!