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Techniques for Identifying Risks

"The success of the risk management process depends on the completeness and thoroughness of the assessment that is done to produce the list of risks. Some techniques to help you extract useful information from other sources and people are shown in the subsections that follow."

Project Classification

"Classifying projects by specific attributes helps to identify possible risks. A macro attribute is the project's industry grouping. This can determine the most critical parts of a project that a manager needs to validate. For example, an Aeronautics IT project will require more rigorous testing than a reporting initiative that can be released in stages. Project classification will be discussed further in Chapter 7, but consider that the details for each of the following project attributes have a direct impact on the type of risk exposure that exists as well as the mitigation strategies:
  • Project duration
  • Phase duration
  • Team size
  • Team location (co-located or dispersed)
  • Team experience
  • Budget
  • Business complexity"

Past Experiences

"Past experiences should be drawn through your local network. This includes your own experiences, as well as those of the other project managers, the team members, and the business users. These experiences can be captured by reviewing past project post mortems and conducting interviews with people involved. Project managers should be analyzing and recording their experiences on projects over time to build an understanding of how their abilities react to different risk factors. Build up a personal network that contains colleagues in multiple industries and disciplines and interview them as well."

Industry Best Practices

"Most industries have an extensive collection of experiences distilled down to best practice that you can draw on. The cost of this information varies widely, from being free to bartering (for example, an opportunity to sell you something in exchange for a white paper), nominal charge, or subscription-based. Also consider getting information from industry groups and think tanks (for example, Gartner Group, Forrester Research)."

Unforeseen Risks

"This chapter started with an adage: 'You don't know what you don't know.' The information offered in th is chapter will help you to expand your understanding, but at some point, you will have exhausted your sources of information. Some risks may have been missed, or are too expensive to try and mitigate, or of such low probability that they were placed outside consideration (although the impact should similarly have been of a low variety)."

"The project needs to be shielded from unforeseen risks by incorporating a multipronged strategy that consists of the following:
  • Deliverables focus  Know with clarity what needs to be produced at each stage of the project life cycle.
  • Generic contingency funds  Bank some extra time and money to deal with new events (say 10 percent of the budgets).
  • Slack time  Include slack time after key activities so that there is room for them to slip without affecting other activities."

The above is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.