Project Management

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from RebelsGuideToPM.com.

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How to avoid a project risk

Categories: risk, scope, Scope, Risk

Risk avoidance is an approach that you’ll see mentioned as one way to manage project risk. But how can you actually avoid a risk? Oftentimes, the risks are related to what the project is all about and you can’t simply palm them off on to someone else or change the project so that they don’t happen – because that would mean changing the scope of the project and that’s probably not going to be something your sponsor will go for.

In his book, Identifying and Managing Project Risk (4th edition), Tom Kendrick lays out some realistic options to consider if you want to avoid a risk completely.

how to avoid project risk

Here are some suggestions drawn from his work but with my own interpretation added in.

Avoid new technology

Anything new brings with it an element of risk. Untried technology might be the latest shiny thing, but if you want to avoid risks related to using unique, new, and unproven solutions, it’s better to stick to the tried-and-tested options.

Buy, don’t build

Make or buy decisions are common in tech projects and others. You have to decide if you’re going to buy in a solution or build it in-house. It might feel like the right thing to do is to build it in house, but if someone out there already has a proven solution that works and would work for you, you can reduce the risk if you go with that.

Building involves creating something new (for you) so it adds time and uncertainty and risk.

Do the minimum

Keep your scope small. The larger the scope, or the more additional change requests and new features that find their way into the brief, the more risk you are adding. MVP for the win.

Keep the plan simple

Along the same lines as having a simple product scope, have a simple plan. Avoid multiple strands of work that run in sequence. Avoid dependencies between tasks where you can. Break down tasks into smaller chunks of work and make sure there are enough people to manage them. Schedule ‘fire breaks’ where the team can catch up.

Manage resources

Look at where you can build in more time, or more slack, for example by not having someone due to work on two back-to-back tasks and making sure people are scheduled at a lower level of availability over resource-pressured times like holiday seasons. Even better, ring-fence the resource so they are solely dedicated to your project and aren’t trying to juggle their day job or other project commitments at the same time. Use resource levelling to spot where you might have problems and plan around those.

Make sure there are enough people available with the right skills so you can avoid the bus factor. Give people the tools they need to get their work done so they aren’t slowed down by not having access to the right kit or software and automate what you can so they don’t have to do those tasks at all.

If you want to avoid risks completely, you will have to think about how you plan and resource the work. Review how you prioritise requirements or look at the schedule. Think about how work can be rearranged between people or across the timeline to reduce the risk to nothing.

It might not be possible – in fact, I’d bet it isn’t possible – to avoid every risk, because that’s the nature of projects. But there could be some specific schedule, resource or scope risks that you could remove from your log because of the choices you and the team make.

What else would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: July 15, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
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