What Is Issue Tracking? Definition and Best Practices

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issue tracking

What Is Issue Tracking?

Issue Tracking Definition

The technique of evaluating user problems with a software product is called issue tracking.

Have you ever worked on a project where little problems or bugs kept popping up out of nowhere? Or your customers frequently reported specific pain points with your product or service. This is where good old issue tracking comes in handy.

Issue tracking, sometimes called defect tracking, documents and manages issues, bugs, errors, or enhancement requests in one centralized place. This allows everyone on the project team and stakeholders to stay current on progress.

Some critical aspects of issue tracking include:

  • Creating issue tickets: These describe the problem in detail – when it occurs, steps to reproduce, and current vs expected behavior.
  • Prioritizing issues: Flags get assigned based on severity so the team knows what to focus on first.
  • Assigning issues: Responsibility gets designated to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Tracking status: Issues are updated as progress is made through different stages like Open, In Progress, Resolved, or Closed.
  • Organizing issues: They can easily be categorized into Epics, Features, or another bucket to see what types exist.
  • Communicating changes: All activities, like comments and status updates, are logged so everyone stays on the same page.

Whether you use a basic spreadsheet or a complete bug-tracking tool, having issues recorded in one place is vital for any organized team or business. It keeps all projects shipshape by surfacing and solving problems as quickly as possible.

The Issue Tracking Workflow

So you’ve got issues popping up in your project – now what? Having a clean workflow to handle them makes a big difference. Here are the typical stages We see with the most effective issue tracking:

  • Issue Creation: When a bug is found, a ticket gets filed with detailed steps, screenshots, etc. This captures all the needed info upfront.
  • Prioritization: Issues are reviewed, and a priority (high, medium, low) is applied based on impact. This helps determine the order to resolve things.
  • Assignment: The team lead or project manager looks at priorities and workloads and then assigns each issue to the best person to tackle it.
  • Development: The assignee investigates, provides an estimate, may need to comment/request more data, and then starts making fixes or enhancements.
  • Testing: Once development work is complete, the ticket gets moved to a testing phase, where it goes through verification and validation.
  • Closure: If testing passes, the issue can be signed off as resolved. If not, it moves back to development for rework.
  • Release: Approved resolved issues are bundled into periodic software updates or patches for users.

Having every ticket progress through these stages in a consistent, visible manner helps ensure transparency and accountability. It keeps everyone engaged and focused on getting issues addressed efficiently.

Why Do We Need Issue Tracking Software?

purpose of issue tracking software

Through issue tracking, you gain an ordered set of methods to identify and rectify or solve the queries, errors, and bugs through issue tracking. And other hindrances that the software user encounters.

To mention some of the fundamental reasons for using an issue tracking system: 

  1. Organization – It brings structure and process to tasks, bugs, features, and other project items. Issues can be assigned, commented on, labeled, and tracked in one centralized place.
  1. Visibility – With a visual Kanban-style board, the entire team has visibility into priorities, work in progress, and anything blocking progress at a glance.
  1. Accountability – Assigning owners to issues and tracking their status/resolution history improves accountability, so nothing slips through the cracks. Team members know what’s expected of them.
  1. Communication – Discussion threads on each issue card facilitate communication between all stakeholders. No more losing track of vital info in long email chains.
  1. Reporting – Most software provides customized reports on critical metrics like bugs resolved, features completed, workloads, burn downs, and more for effective project management.

Without issue tracking, multi-person project coordination quickly becomes messy as tasks are forgotten, or work isn’t properly tracked. Issue tracking software brings the structure and transparency needed to successfully deliver complex products and keep all stakeholders in the loop.

Is Bug Tracking and Issue Tracking the Same?

Bug tracking refers to finding and tracking software defects or errors in a system or application. Bug reports document problematic behavior that needs fixing.

  • Issue tracking has a broader scope and can involve bugs, but also includes any tasks, enhancements, or support cases related to a product. Non-bug issues may include feature requests, documentation updates, or client support questions.
  • Most issue-tracking systems like JIRA or Github provide functionality for bug tracking as a subset of overall issue management. Features like statuses, priorities, assigning, and commenting allow items of any type to be organized and resolved.
  • Some dedicated bug-tracking tools focus only on errors and may lack capabilities for non-bug items. However, many modern tools combine tracking of defects, tasks, and other project elements under a single system.
  • Effective bug tracking requires details on how to replicate problems for developers. Issue tracking benefits from additional context, like affected versions and suggested resolutions that aren’t necessarily bugs.
  • Issue prioritization and impact assessment may differ between critical defects and other items. Tracking systems support customizable fields to suit specific item requirements.
  • Bug tracking aims to fix problems, while issue tracking can encompass any work or support need. However, documenting, assigning, commenting on, and resolving items are the same.
  • For many teams, issue, and bug tracking are synonymous with managing any items or tasks in their project workflow, regardless of type. The tools used support both tracking defects and broader issues.

Overall, while concepts are closely related, bug tracking focuses specifically on problems, whereas issue tracking provides a more holistic view of all work and support activities.

Why Is Issue Tracking Important?

The Ins and Outs of Issue Tracking:

  • Issue tracking provides visibility into all requests, bugs, tasks, and other work items in one place. This gives managers transparency and prevents items from falling through the cracks.
  • Dependencies between issues are easily tracked. The system ensures work is completed in proper order and that blocking issues are resolved first.
  • Teams avoid duplicating work and recreating wheels. The database prevents the reopening of identical issues, saving developers time for new work.
  • Patterns in reported problems can be analyzed. With metrics, ineffective code or recurring bugs can be identified and prioritized for improvement.
  • Customer requests are handled professionally. Ticketing gives issues unique IDs for communication. Clients feel heard when given progress updates.
  • Resources are allocated effectively based on issue priority and severity. The highest-impact bugs get fixed first to minimize disruption.
  • Accountability is clear with issue assignments, deadlines, and change logs of comments. Performance can be managed by tracking work completion.
  • Reporting features provide data for management decisions. Dashboards on open items, bottlenecks, and team workload help plan sprints.
  • Standardized templates ensure consistency and capture of critical details. This makes issues easy to understand, reproduce, and resolve.
  • The transition of work is simplified during personnel changes. New hires can familiarize themselves quickly with project status from the backlog.

Proper issue management increases developer productivity while offering clients transparency. It’s a core practice for any serious software development process.

Best Practices for Implementing Issue-Tracking

Making the Most of Your Issue Tracking. Here are a few points describing the best practices for issue tracking:

  • Choose software that supports your workflow, like Kanban, Scrum, or customized processes. Look for flexibility to adapt tracking to your needs.
  • Define clear issue types and standardized naming conventions upfront. This ensures consistent formatting of titles and categorization for reporting.
  • Create templates for bugs, tasks, enhancement, etc., that include fields for critical details needed to reproduce and resolve issues effectively.
  • Involve stakeholders in setting severity and priority guidelines. Then, everyone understands the impact and urgency levels associated with each rating.
  • Assign project roles and permissions carefully based on your team structure. Grant necessary rights to submit and view certain projects/statuses.
  • Encourage light, consistent use of issue comments to document chronological progress and decisions as work happens.
  • Establish expectations for regular status updates to manage expectations when work gets reprioritized or stalled.
  • Integrate issue tracking seamlessly into your team’s communication channels and processes. Make it the system of record for work tracking.
  • Use dashboards and reports to track velocity, identify bottlenecks, evaluate workloads, and measure resolution metrics over time.
  • Consider automated integration of source code management and builds when possible to link testing outcomes back to originating issues.
  • Governance includes periodic reviews, process tuning, and customization as needs change with team growth or innovation in tracking tools.

Following best practices will optimize your issue tracking to keep all projects, dependencies, and work items organized and moving forward smoothly.


What is the best way to track issues?

No matter how small or huge, you must treat all issues seriously. Issues should always be addressed because minor problems can quickly escalate into significant issues.

What is the issue tracking in project management?

Maintaining open issues to ensure they are handled within the next task. That is before the next milestone or the change effort is successfully finished.

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