The Escalation Process clarifies the boundaries and channels of decision-making throughout an organization in order to solve the problem quickly and with clarity. Designed around the concept of a core project team with a clear project manager, this process outlines a path that allows the core team to make decisions at lower levels of the org chart while having a predefined path for exception management.
This might be called an escalation plan, or escalation workflow that moves a high-priority issue up to a higher level. It minimizes the time it takes to escalate decisions that are beyond their scope of authority. It is among the essential tools for an agile product development process. Though it is used extensively for customer support, customer service agents, and managing SLA timeframe, it can also be an essential tool for an agile product development process, however don’t assume the escalation meaning in software is any different from escalation in any other type of development. An exception is an exception!
Keep reading for access to an escalation template.
What Is The Escalation Management Process Diagram?
So to get us started, how does a project manager communicate and escalate in the project? By planning ahead. The project manager can create the desired communication a spreadsheet format and easily customize it based on your organizational structure. – an escalation matrix should contain escalations that are most common, to start. As you use the diagram over time, you can fine-tune the level of detail based on the complexity of the project. For larger organizations with a program management capability or a lead project manager who is responsible for overseeing multiple project managers, can develop the Project Escalation Management diagram to ensure a consistent process across the organization.
There may be exceptions to the process on a project-by-project basis, but in most cases, a consistent application of this escalation procedure will yield fast decision-making and be a useful tool for all project managers and their project management duties. This is an excellent process for problem solving and risk management.
A project manager creates the process (or escalation matrix) in four steps:
- Define decision categories: these can include areas such as finance, staffing, tools, and technical features/functionality. When defining the categories, the project manager should be mindful of the right balance in the number of categories based on the complexity of your organization. Project managers should avoid too many issues to take to the next level to overburden the process, and too few will not provide a meaningful escalation path. This is especially important in new product development, where there is inherently more risk.
- In each category, project managers should determine the appropriate escalation procedure by functional responsibility. Project managers should start at the lowest level in the organization, typically an individual contributor. Some decision categories can have parallel communications (functional and cross-functional) and typically this flows from the project manager. This matrix is to be followed for just about any escalation in product management or program management.
- Define the key organizational contributors and their decision-making authority including the project manager. This can vary based on the size and complexity of the project. In some cases, there will be dual communication paths (functional and project) to ensure rapid decision-making.
- The project manager then reviews with management to get agreement on the categories, decision authority, and escalation procedure. It is the decision authority and the process to raise an escalation should be signed off by management – this is most important.
What is the Escalation Process for Customer Service?
The process for the escalation of a customer problem or to resolve a customer issue is similar to that of a project escalation, but whereas a project escalation is concerned with functional dependencies and cross-functional know how, a customer escalation involves functional escalation with customer reps or hierarchical escalation through the support team to provide an issue resolution in a timely manner.
Customer incident management is more of a troubleshooting process routing the customer escalation to the right department. If the customer support is provided to a business, there are also SLAs (Service Level Agreements) in place that guide the escalation to meet the terms of the agreement. Often this includes a communication plan to inform the business customers’ stakeholders of its ability to hit the SLA targets.
What Are The Benefits of the Escalation Process for Project Managers?
- Minimizes delays in delivering products to market.
- Drives accountability in the decision-making process.
- Saves time and energy by providing a clear escalation path for decision-making.
- Educates new team members on how to make decisions quickly.
In general, the escalation should be resolved in hours/days not days/weeks.
What Business Problems Does This Solve?
What two common problems can a project manager avoid by escalating an issue? Rapid decision making and increased agility are two of the most common problems that are helped with escalations. One of the biggest obstacles to improving time-to-market is finding a way to make decisions when teams along with their project manager, are stalled. This is most painful when the product development strategy is focussed on time to market advantage. The diagram documents the decisions around who decides what, issue of escalation may trigger a communication to the next level, given a certain set of conditions for the project.
What Else You Should Know about Escalation Process
The Escalation Process is only effective if all the levels of the organization agree to it. When a cross functional team communicates a project escalation, the next level of the management team needs to be prepared to provide guidance quickly. In addition, the quality of the team determines the effectiveness of the escalation procedure. You need to have strong team members throughout the organization, who are willing to take responsibility for driving decisions and have the good judgment to carry them out within their scope of authority. Note, companies will need to escalate issues in their product portfolio management activities if and when they arrive. Escalation is not just for the development stage.
The Project Escalation diagram depicts the responsibility and communication path for effective decision-making. The left column categorizes the type of decision. The middle column provides specific types of decisions that map into the categories. And the right column shows the path the escalation follows from Individual Contributor to the C-suite. Not all decisions will go to the top of the organization. The scope and impact of the decision will determine what level of authority is required.
NetCo is working on the next release of their flagship product, which will be available at their annual conference in seven months, and time to market is obviously important. The hardware team is in the early stages of the design phase and is making progress. Although NetCo has assigned two members from the firmware team to the project, they have yet to begin work. One of the hardware engineers, Frank, is concerned that if they don’t get engagement soon, they will fall behind. In a conversation with one of his colleagues in firmware, he learns that they are still working on an update for the last release and will not be available for another three weeks. Frank can’t resolve this issue on his own, so he relies on the team’s Project Escalation diagram to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
By using the diagram above, Frank determines that this is a staffing issue that is about to impact the project schedule. He escalates the issue to his functional lead, Sharon, who is also a member of the cross-functional project team. She doesn’t have authority over the firmware engineers, so she informs the project manager of the resource conflict. She also takes the issue to her functional director, Jack, who manages all of the engineering teams in the business unit. Jack decides to keep one of the firmware engineers on their current work and to split the time of the second engineer in order to provide staffing for the new project.
Download the Escalation template and instructions for the Escalation Process diagram.
The Escalation Process clarifies the boundaries and channels of decision-making throughout an organization. Designed around the concept of a core project team, the Escalation Process diagram displays a path that allows the core team to make decisions at lower levels of the org chart while having a predefined path for exception management.