In my last post, I offered a simple way of grouping project risks using just 4 categories. You’ll never be able to completely eliminate risk but you can manage it. If you think your project has everything under control and faces no risks, look again. You missed something.
To help you think about risk items, I’ve compiled a short list of common sources of risk. Here are some places where risks hide out waiting for the innocent project team to drive by.
- Unknown Stakeholders – These are people who have influence over a project’s goals, deliverables, resources or schedule. Yet the project team is unaware of them at the outset of the planning process. These folks represent a major risk factor because they often display unexpected resistance.
- Fuzzy Project Scope – Every project has goals but unless the goals are detailed enough and clear enough, the result is a lack of a common understanding about what the project is intended to accomplish. If the business doesn’t agree on what they are attempting to accomplish, the project team can’t possibly get it done.
- Gold Plated Requirements – Many project teams find themselves in possession of business requirements that resemble a wish list. There are just too many nice-to-have features that someone deems critical. Prioritize early and avoid unnecessary gold plating.
- Inappropriate Staffing – The project plan shows that ten people need to be assigned to the team to deliver the application, so management assigns ten people. But are they the right people? Do they have the proper skill sets? It takes more than just warm bodies to get to done.
- Infrequent Deliverables – The software industry is notorious for delivering what nobody wants, later than anyone expected, at a cost no one can afford. Demand frequent deliverables and checkpoints. The longer the time period between checkpoints, the greater the risk of the team getting off track.
- Inadequate Controls on External Providers – Any external provider depended upon for success of the project must be monitored. Never assume a supplier will deliver simply because they always have or because there is a forfeiture clause in their contract. They don’t have skin in the game. You do.
- Disastrous Events – External events beyond your control can have a profound affect on a project. Natural disasters, accidents, competitor announcements, mergers, etc. can all stop a project dead in its tracks. Ask the “what if” questions up front and be prepared for the unlikely.
Risks can be accepted, avoided, transferred or mitigated. I suppose you could also ignore them but I wouldn’t recommend it.