Project Risk Management

What is the difference between a project risk and a project issue and what different types can I expect to encounter? What tools can I use to manage the risks and issues on a Project? This article offers some possible answers, drawn from experience on Intranet Portal deployments and the PRINCE® methodology.

Inherent (or Business) Risk
Inherent Risk is the risk that exists in the environment around your portal project. It will tend to be unique to your organization; it’s culture and politics. For example, if you have a fragmented business (either geographical or functional), then this will create a higher inherent risk of poor communication.

Project Risk
Project Risk is the risk specific to your project. Some Project Risk stems from the nature of what you are doing; there are certain risks common to any project (e.g. the unfamiliarity to users of the technology you are deploying).

However, most project risk is under your direct influence; for example the skills of the project team, the level of governance effectiveness and so on.

Stage Risk
Finally, there is ‘stage risk’ which is the risk associated with the particular activity of any given phase of the project plan. The Risk Log & Risk Plan In order to stay in control of the risks to your portal project, it makes sense to have a formal log of all risks, to which anyone involved with the project is entitled to add. You might use a formal workshop to first populate the log.

Assessing Risks
Each risk (however derived) can be assessed using a simple methodology, whereby the probability of the risk being realized (‘likelihood’) and the size of the impact on the project objectives (‘severity’) can be measured. The simplest system (based on the PRINCE project management method) is to give a score of 1-3 for likelihood and severity (where 1 is low and 3 is high). From these scores, the importance of each risk can be measured as the product of likelihood and severity. Clearly, any risk of importance 9 demands immediate attention, followed by risks rated 6 and so on.

Risk Counter-Measures
The importance of each risk should be regularly maintained, based on the extent to which the likelihood and severity of impact change over time. For each risk, one should enter a counter-measure in the risk plan. Where a risk can be eliminated, then this will be the counter-measure. Where it cannot be fully eliminated, then risk mitigation actions will be the most appropriate.Issues Log A Risk is something that is yet to happen, whilst an Issue is something that has already happened.

It may well be convenient to use the Risk Log to also track any issues on the project. Issues will generally fall into one of the following categories:(R) – Request for a change (in the scope of the project)(O) – An item has been identified that is Off-Specification(Q) – A Question has been raised that needs to be resolved(S) – A Statement of Concern has been raised by someone – and(I) – Other issues. To score issues, just ascribe an importance score (of between 1 and 9). Managing Risks and Issues Once you have put a Plan in place, then it is important to regularly monitor and report on the counter-measures that have been deployed and whether or not they have been successful in reducing the overall risk profile of the project.For templates and examples of risks and issues pertinent to intranet portal deployment projects, please check out my chapter on Risks and Issues (see in the (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide. If you act, manage and report regularly on risks and issues, you will have substantially improved your chances of project success!