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Project risk is hard to plan for. But when you’re working in project management, the less prepared you are for risk, the harder it is to complete the project.
Though it may seem like you’re allocating time to worrying about things that could go wrong (most of which will be beyond your control anyway), you’re not. Instead, you’re setting yourself up for success by considering potential risks and outcomes.
Without running a , a risk analysis, or using a risk matrix at the start of your project, you may encounter problems that would be less impactful had you planned ahead.
If you are a fan of being prepared for the unexpected, our risk register template is for you.
What is a risk register?
A risk register is a project management document that contains the information you need about the possible risks you may encounter during a project, including what those risks are and how to manage them. This document is often the end result of your risk management processes and may include a risk matrix or a formal risk assessment.
In project management, risk is anything that could happen that affects the outcome of a project. It could be good, like hiring a standout new team member, or it could be bad, like the client going out of business mid-project.
Regardless of good or bad risk, the risk register should contain the info you need to successfully navigate the project when risk arises.
What is a risk register template?
A risk register template is a project management template that helps you collect the information you need about any risk that could affect your project. A risk register template can be easily customized to follow your ideal workflow and the way you manage projects.
10 key elements of a risk register template
The more information you include in your risk register, the better. It’s not enough to simply know what could happen. You also need a mitigation plan, alternative plans in case the mitigation plans don’t work out, and you need to know the potential impact. That final piece is important because if something has a negligible impact on your project, you don’t need to waste time worrying about it.
That said, here are the 10 pieces of information you should have in you risk register.
1. Risk category & status
What kind of risk is there and what is the status of the risk? Is it an internal risk (like your team being fired) or is it an external risk (like an earthquake)?
Each category of risk requires a different approach to mitigation. For the risk’s status, be sure to list where you are in the mitigation process. Do you have a plan in place? Are you working on it?
2. Risk description, severity & score
Include a brief description of the risk. This doesn’t need to be too detailed, but you need enough information to recognize the risk when it happens.
Be sure to include a severity rating - low, medium, severe - so the team knows whether or not to take action when it happens. If you’ve run potential risks through a weighted risk matrix, include the score as well.
3. Risk ID
Attach a name to your risk. You could choose a name like Servers Crash or a numeric ID like Risk 1.3. Either way, the ID helps you find the risk quickly in the register when it happens. The more descriptive the name, the better.
4. Project impact
What will happen if the risk occurs? Describe the impact the risk will have on your project. Again, keep in mind that the risk could be either positive or negative. For example, if you miss an important milestone and you fall behind on the project schedule, the negative risk is that you will run over-budget.
5. Risk probability
How likely is it that the identified risk is going to occur? Some risks are pretty common, like people leaving your company, while others aren’t as likely to happen, such as an earthquake hitting New York City.
By including the risk probability, you can better understand whether this risk is something you should be concerned about or simply aware of.
6. Risk consequence
Similar to project impact, risk consequence helps you better understand what’s going to happen should you run into the risk. Again, these consequences could be either positive or negative.
7. Prevention plan
This is probably one of the most important sections on the risk register. Once you’ve identified a potential risk, you need to come up with a risk response plan to mitigate the risk. The kind of plan you come up with depends on factors identified above, such as severity of the risk and the impact it will have on your project.
Even if your plan is to watch and see what happens, make sure it’s listed here so people know what to do.
8. Contingency plan
Of course, not everything goes as planned. Sometimes you need to have a Plan B.
Like most aspects of your risk management plans, the more prepared you are the less likely it will be that your project fails because of risk.
9. Risk owner
List the person or persons who are responsible for this risk should it come up. Ideally, choose people or a team of people that have either dealt with similar situations in the past or have the skills needed to quickly mitigate things. This could be people on the project team or even key stakeholders who have the ability to resolve the issue.
10. Residual risk
What risk will be left after you’ve managed the situation? Odds are there will be residual risk when you’re done. Maybe you’re still slightly behind schedule after missing a key milestone. Any residual risk can be classified as low because you’ve managed most of the problem and what’s left is less impactful.
👉 Get started with this risk register template.
After you copy this template, you can start using this free risk register template for managing the various risks that might arise in your project.
How to write a risk register using Coda's template
Step 1: Identifying Risks
In the page you can add details about a risk that was identified by someone on your team. By clicking the Register a Risk button, you can add details for the risk such as its Description, Associated Project, its Probability, its Impact, Person Responsible, and Date it was Realized. The Severity Score of the risk will be based on its probability and impact (higher score means the risk is important to address).
Step 2: Mitigating Risks with Actions
In the page you can add details associated with each risk to create action items to mitigate the Risk. Once completing the action and solving the risk, you can check the Addressed box to archive the risk. To view all archived risks you can visit .
Step 3: Defining Projects
In the page, you can add new projects by clicking the Add Project button. In the table you can fill out details for the project your team is taking on.
Risk register template FAQs
Why is risk register important?
Risk registers are important so that you aren’t left scrambling every time something goes wrong. With a risk register, you will be ready for situations that arise. You will know what to do, who to contact, and whether or not your project is in trouble. The risk register provides a plan to navigate the complexities of risk mitigation.
What are the benefits of a risk register?
The benefit of a risk register is that you have set plans to handle anything that can go wrong in a project. This means that you don’t have to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do. When an issue arises, you use the risk register to identify and apply the fix.
When to use a risk register template?
The risk register is used when something goes wrong, as it help mitigates the impact of the risk. Risk registers are also helpful in decision making processes as they outline the consequences of decisions. For example, if you’re considering bringing in a new person to your project team, you can check the risk register to understand any associated risk. Perhaps a new hire will slow the project down as they learn the ropes, but overall this is rated as low risk. Understanding risk can help you make more informed decisions.
What is the difference between probability and impact?
In risk management, the difference between probability and impact is that probability is how likely something is to happen, whereas impact is how much the project will be affected when the risk does happen.
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