Identifying Project Risk

Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014

It may seem overly simple, but the first stage of the risk management process must be to identify all possible risks that could affect the project. Certainly, it would be impossible to produce an exhaustive list of every conceivable risk – but you can prioritize what risks you consider based on some intersection between likelihood of the risk event and the potential damage the risk event may cause. The project manager can initiate this process by establishing project priorities in the context of the project scope and objectives. Gray, 2008, suggests that this stage of risk identification must include building a risk management team consisting of key team-players and stakeholders. One of the keys to success in this stage of the process is to examine the project through disassembling it into separate elements. This type of systematic examination of individual project elements, and associated risks, can be geared towards specific project requirements, processes, functional areas, or technical requirements. Common techniques at this phase should solicit ideas and establish concerns from every possible angle and should use, as a basis, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This can be particularly useful in identifying some of the lesser emphasized process-oriented risks. On a small project the manager can do this himself; however the advantages in getting a risk management team involved include a broader diversity of opinion and the ability to foster the team’s interest in the project course. Additionally, a risk management team is more apt to draw from various functional areas to more easily employ multiple methods and techniques to identify all the risks that a project may encounter.

1. Gray, Clifford F (2008). Project Management; the managerial process. 4th Ed. McGraw-Hill/Irwin Co., Inc., New York, USA.

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