Project risk is one of those things that people don’t like to think much about, let alone 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.
It’s one of the reasons we talk about it so much around here. As much as it may seem like you’re dedicating your time to worrying about things that could go wrong (most of which will be beyond your control anyway), you’re not. What you’re doing is setting yourself up for success by considering the things that could affect that success.
, risk analysis, or using a risk matrix at the start of your project, you run the risk (pun intended) of slamming head first into very manageable problems that would be infinitely less problematic had you planned ahead.
If you are a fan of being prepared for the unexpected, our risk register template is the thing for you.
What is a risk register?
is a project management document that contains all 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 might 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 new team member who’s an absolutely rock star. And it could be bad, like the client going out of business mid-project.
Regardless of whether it’s good or bad, the risk register should have all 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 all the information you need about the risk that could affect your project. The template is nice because it helps you get away from using an Excel spreadsheet that might work, but isn’t super user-friendly for those who didn’t put it together. 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 need mitigation plans in place for dealing with, alternative plans in case the first 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 probably don’t need to worry about it.
That said, here are the 10 pieces of information you should have in you risk register
1. Risk category & status
First, what kind of risk is it and what’s the status of the risk. Is it an internal risk (like your team being fired) or is it an external risk (an earthquake)? Each category of risk requires a different approach to mitigation. For the status, 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 have to go into too much detail, but you need enough information to recognize the risk when it happens. Be sure to include a severity rating, low, medium, severe risk, for example, so the team knows whether or not to freak out when it happens. And, 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 can use a name, like
, use 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 is, the better.
4. Project impact
What is going to happen if the risk occurs? Describe the impact the risk will have on your project, again, keeping in mind that it could be good or bad. For example, you miss an important milestone and you fall behind on the project schedule, which means you’re going to 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, others aren’t that likely to happen, like an earthquake in New York City. But, by including the probability, you understand whether it’s something you should be concerned about or simply aware of.
6. Risk consequence
Similar to project impact, consequence helps you better understand what’s going to happen should you run into the risk. Again, these consequences are probably going to be bad, but they could also be positive.
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. But, 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 dig into the backup pile for Plan B. Putting together a contingency plan doesn’t mean that you’re expecting your first plan to fail. But if it does, you want to be ready. 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. This doesn’t mean that it’s their fault, just that they’re most qualified to handle the risk. Ideally, you’ll be looking for people or a team of people who 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’s going to be a little something leftover when you’re done, maybe you’re still behind after missing a key milestone, but you’re not so far behind that the project is going to fail because you
things. Ultimately, any residual risk should be classified as low because you’ve managed most of the problem. Anything that’s left should be nothing to worry about.
Get started with this risk register template.
After you copy this template, you can start utilizing 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
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 like its
Date it was Realized
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
page you add details associated with each risk to create
to mitigate the Risk. Once completing the action and solving the risk, you can check the
box to archive the risk. To view all archived risks you can visit
Step 3: Defining Projects
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 because, without them, you’d be left scrambling every time something went wrong. You wouldn’t know what to do, who to contact, or whether or not your project was in trouble. The risk register gives you all that information and helps you navigate the complexities of risk mitigation.
What are the benefits of a risk register?
The big benefit of the risk register is that you have specific plans to handle just about everything that can go wrong in your project. This means that you don’t have to spend precious time trying to figure out what to do. When an issue arises, you just go to the register, look it up, and apply the fix.
When to use a risk register template?
Ideally, you’re only going to need to use the risk register when something goes wrong to help mitigate the impact of the risk. But, it can help be helpful in the decision making process. If you’re trying to figure out the best way to approach a project or if you want to make a change mid-stream, your risk register can help you understand the consequences of the decision. For example, if you’re considering bringing in a new person to your project team, then you can check the risk register to learn what would happen if you hired a new team member. Odds are you’re going to see one of two responses, it’s either going to be fine or it’ll slow you down a little while the new person learns the ropes. Knowing what could happen helps you make a more informed decision.
What is the difference between probability and impact?
The difference between probability and impact in risk management is that probability is how likely something is to happen, where impact is how much the project will be affected when the risk does happen.
to register realized risks