Risk Assessment

Learn about driving clarity in risk assessment.


In risk assessment, there are many ways to drive clarity. First and foremost is doing the exercise in the first place! We’ve seen plenty of projects that treat issues and risks synonymously—as in, an active issue is just a risk to the project, and risks are an issue that causes timeline issues. However, a risk is something that might happen and impact the project timeline, scope, or resourcing, but hasn’t happened yet. In a textbook world, meaning in theory, an issue is just a risk that has been realized—as in a risk that was already captured, and with a strategy in place to deal with it. By knowing ahead of time that something might happen, you have a better chance of avoiding it or at the very least being prepared to handle it.

We aren’t in a textbook world though, and in the real world, many unforeseen problems can crop up (which should go into the risk register to reduce the chances of the same problem coming up again in future projects). The risk register for our project should be abundantly full to account for any issues that we can foresee. Though issues that arise may not match the risk perfectly, the stated risk and strategy are usually adaptable to the real-world scenario that takes place.

Author's experience: Let's look at an example of a foreseeable risk that may or may not occur. I once had a team that faced issues with consistent service deployments. There are multiple reasons for the inconsistency, from lengthy deployment timelines to consistent merge and regression issues. Because of this, deployment delays are a standard risk for my projects when there is work on these services that have delays. Once the project plan is in place and a service is linked to a task, the associated deployment risk is immediately included in the project. Regardless of whether the service experiences a smooth month without deployment issues, it's important to note that the risk persists. This deployment risk isn't a critique of the team managing the service; it's a factual consideration. Neglecting this fact could jeopardize the project.

When driving clarity in analyzing risks, a cyclical relationship is formed between risk assessment and planning. The figure below shows this relationship:

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