No matter how successful you want your projects to be, there’s always the possibility that something might go wrong — which is why it’s vital to assess risks, preparing yourself and your team beforehand. With project management risk assessment, you can develop a mitigation plan to deal with these risks before they become reality.
In this doc, you’ll learn all about what risk assessment in project management means, its benefits, how it differs from risk analysis, risk identification, and risk management, and how you can perform a proper risk assessment with examples to inspire you.
What is risk assessment in project management?
Experienced project managers emphasize unpredictability, even with the most straightforward of projects. Project risk is inevitable, and there is realistically no way to account for every single possible one.
Risk assessment aims to simplify the monitoring of risks and taking the proper steps to mitigate them. Through a combination of research and past experience, risk assessment also focuses on identifying risks with the most potential impact.
Risks vs. issues
Many people, including project managers, use two terms, risks and issues, interchangeably. However, they mean different things.
Risks are any uncertain events that, if they occur, can have a positive or negative effect on the overall project objectives or team’s performance.
Issues are things that have happened. There is no uncertainty about it anymore because, well, an issue has happened.
Why should you know the difference? Here are some reasons why it’s important:
It saves time: Managing known risks proactively can help save valuable time. Through risk management, project managers can eliminate a lot of adverse risks.
Measure management effectiveness: If a project has loads of issues, it indicates the managers’ capability. It might suggest that the project needs better management.
Negative vs. positive risk
Another thing to keep in mind when discussing project management risk assessment is the existence of negative and positive risks. Many people associate risks with negative events, but there are times when risks can be good for the project.
Some examples of positive risks are:
A policy change that benefits the project.
Getting a grant that offers you more resources to handle a project.
From these examples, we can define positive risks as any uncertain event that will positively impact the project outcome if it comes to pass. No wonder, then, that many people prefer to call this type of risk “opportunity.”
Risk analysis vs. risk identification vs. risk management
Risk analysis, risk identification, and risk management all mean different things, and understanding the difference between them will make it easier for you to understand risk assessment in project management.
Risk analysis is a vital component of risk assessment and management. In risk analysis, the management team determines how significant risk event factors identified in the risk assessment process are.
In addition, risk analysis measures the probability of hazards and the magnitude of such hazards to the project. This process is vital because it allows you to prioritize risks and create ways to deal with them.
Risk identification is another crucial process part of risk assessment. In fact, before any form of risk assessment starts, the project manager is expected to identify risks to the project. Risk identification lists all possible risks in a project and their characteristics. And a risk register is a primary medium for recording all identified risks in a project.
There are different ways of identifying project risks: risk sources and categories. Let’s consider each of these briefly.
Using a risk repository: A risk repository is a document that contains the list of risks envisaged on completed projects. The information in the repository can help a project management team arrive at a comprehensive list of risks for a project.
Checklist analysis: The checklist analysis is a questionnaire that discovers gaps and risks.
Expert judgment: Experienced project managers can envisage project risks and gain further insight by brainstorming with project team members, project stakeholders, and subject matter experts.
Risk category: Here, the manager considers areas that are prone to risks. You can divide these categories into:
Risk management is a process that project managers use to manage and mitigate risks in a project. It’s a proactive process that figures out potential risks and controls them if they occur.
So, risk analysis and identification are part of the risk management process.
What are the benefits of risk assessment?
Risk assessment is something that all successful project managers recognize as crucial for a project to excel. Here are some of the biggest reasons to do risk assessment no matter the project.
Risk management establishes the various major and minor vulnerabilities of a project. In risk management, managers consider risks, the risk probability, the impact on the project, and proposed solutions for managing risks.
Get better data.
A successful risk assessment process requires getting quality data for scheduling information, budgeting, and so on.
So, when you do an assessment, you’ll know what you need, and if you don’t have enough information, you’ll go ahead to acquire it.
Get your spending in order.
Risk assessment includes mapping out costs to predict problems. Therefore, you’ll get spending in order, which will result in reduced wastage and higher quality.
With effective mitigation strategies in place, you’ll plan better, and better project planning will elevate the project success rate and enable you to hit milestones.
How to do a risk assessment.
At this point, you’ll likely want to get started on a risk assessment right away! So how can you perform an effective risk assessment for your project? Let’s discuss that next.
Step 1: Identify possible risks and blockers.
Before the project begins, start by considering all the risks. Since risks can be positive or negative, leave nothing out.
Risks pop up as the project progresses, but you should strive to deal with risks as soon as you can with a contingency plan.
As a project manager, you might be tempted to do it yourself, but it’s best to identify risks and blockers with the aid of all key stakeholders like the client, project team members, and subject matter experts. These can bring a fresh perspective to help identify risks that you’d ordinarily miss.
Step 2: Figure out the impact of identified risk.
It’s not enough to know the risks that might arise; you should also know the magnitude of the risks and the impact they’ll have on the project. Some risks have a high impact than others.
Ask and answer the following questions about each identified risk:
What will happen if this risk happens?
Will it affect the delivery date and deliverable?
If so, by how long?
How much, in terms of resources, would it cost?
What will be the effect on the project life cycle?
Depending on your answers, you can rate the risk as low, medium, or high risk.
Step 3: Evaluate possible outcomes and solutions.
As step 2 has shown, risks have different impact levels on the project. Since not all risks are the same, it’s up to you to know the resources you’ll allocate to resolve it if it occurs.
Step 4: Write down your risk assessment process.
Next, write down your risk assessment process. Writing includes using technologies and processes that identify, evaluate and report risks and related concerns. Record your findings in a risk register after identifying risks and possible solutions. This register is vital for future risk assessment processes and can help with risk response.
It’s also a legal requirement in some countries. It is proof that risks were evaluated and the correct actions were taken to reduce the impact.
Step 5: Review and update (if necessary).
Your current risk assessment might become outdated since projects can evolve and work environments change. Keep your risk assessments updated. Review them often and whenever there are significant changes to a project.
Coda templates to help you assess risk.
Assessing risks can be a daunting task. Here is a set of templates to get you started.
Project risk assessment template for better risk management.
is what you need to visualize the risks have a higher impact than others.
Project management risk assessment FAQs
What is a risk assessment in project management?
Risk assessment is a process in risk management. With the risk assessment process, project managers identify potential events and situations that can impact (either positively or negatively) a project’s outcome.
What are the five steps of risk assessment?
The five steps of risk assessment are:
Identifying potential risks and blockers.
Knowing the impact of identified risks.
Evaluating possible outcomes and solutions.
Writing a risk assessment process.
Reviewing and updating risk assessment.
What are types of project risk?
Here are 5 types of project risks:
Cost risks: This is the risk of spending more than was initially planned for a project. Cost risk usually arises due to poor budget planning or scope creep.
Performance risks: This risk is associated with a project not producing the results intended in the project specifications.
Strategic risks: These are closely related to performance risks. Strategic risks are the risks associated with choosing the right people, tools, and technology to successfully complete a project.
External hazard risks: These are unpredictable risks that come from natural or man-made forces like floods, hurricanes, riots, a pandemic and so on.
Legal risks: These are risks associated with the law of the land and regulatory obligations.
What is the purpose of a risk assessment?
Risk assessment aims to identify risks, remove the risk, and reduce the level of impact by adding controlling measures. Without this assessment, many project initiatives fail.