In a project at Infosys, risk assessment consists of the two traditional components: risk identification and risk prioritization. The risk identification activity focuses on enumerating possible risks to the project. The basic activity is to try to envision all situations that might make things in the project go wrong. The risk prioritization activity considers all aspects of all risks and then prioritizes them (for the purposes of risk management). Although the two are distinct activities, they are often carried out simultaneously. That is, a project manager may identify and analyze the risks together.

6.2.1 Risk Identification

For a project, any condition, situation, or event that can occur and would jeopardize the success of the project constitutes a risk. Identifying risks is therefore an exercise in envisioning what can go wrong. Methods that can aid risk identification include checklists of possible risks, surveys, meetings and brainstorming, and reviews of plans, processes, and work products.5 Checklists of frequently occurring risks are probably the most common tool for risk identification. SEI has also provided a taxonomy of risks to aid in risk identification.7

At Infosys, the commonly occurring risks for projects have been compiled from a survey of previous projects. This list forms the starting point for identifying risks for the current project. Frequently, the risks in the current project will appear on the list.

A project manager can also use the process database to get information about risks and risk management on similar projects. Evaluating and thinking about previously encountered risks also help identify other risks that may be pertinent to this project but do not appear on the list.

Project managers can also use their judgment and experience to evaluate the situation to identify potential risks. Another alternative is to use the project management plan review and discussion meetings to elicit views on risks from others.

6.2.2 Risk Prioritization

The identified risks for a project merely give the possible events that can hinder it from meeting its goals. The consequences of various risks, however, may differ. Before you proceed with managing risks, you must prioritize them so that management energies can be focused on the highest risks.

Prioritization requires analyzing the possible effects of the risk event in case it actually occurs. That is, if the risk materializes, what will be the loss to the project? The loss could include a direct loss, a loss due to lost business opportunity or future business, a loss due to diminished employee morale, and so on. Based on the possible consequences and the probability of the risk event occurring, you can compute the risk exposure, which you can then use for prioritizing risks.

Table 6.1. Risk Categories




0.0 0.3


0.3 0.7


0.7 1.0

This approach requires a quantitative assessment of the risk probability and the risk consequences. Usually, little historical data are available to help you make a quantitative estimate of these parameters. Because risks are probabilistic events, they occur infrequently, and that makes it difficult to gather data about them. Furthermore, any such data must be interpreted properly because the act of managing the risks affects them. This fact implies that risk prioritization will be based more on experience than on hard data from the past. In this situation, categorizing both the probabilities and the consequences can serve to separate high-priority risk items from lower-priority items.5 At Infosys, the probability of a risk occurring is categorized as low, medium, or high. Table 6.1 gives the probability range for each of these categories.

To rank the effects of a risk on a project, you must select a unit of impact. To simplify risk management, Infosys project managers rate the risk impact on a scale of 1 to 10. Within this scale, the risk effects can be rated as low, medium, high, or very high. Table 6.2 gives the range for the consequences for each of these ratings.

With these ratings and ranges for each rating in hand, the following simple method for risk prioritization can be specified:

1.       For each risk, rate the probability of its happening as low, medium, or high. If necessary, assign probability values in the ranges given for each rating.

Table 6.2. Impact Categories

Level of Consequences



0.0 3.0


3.0 7.0


7.0 9.0

Very high

9.0 10.0

2.       For each risk, assess its impact on the project as low, medium, high, or very high. If necessary, assign a weight on a scale of 1 to 10.

3.       Rank the risks based on the probability and effects on the project; for example, a high-probability, high-impact item will have higher rank than a risk item with a medium probability and high impact. In case of conflict, use your judgment (or assign numbers to compute a numeric value of risk exposure).

4.       Select the top few risk items for mitigation and tracking.

The main objective of risk management is to identify the top few risk items and then focus on them. For this purpose, using classification works well. Clearly, a risk that has a high probability of occurring and that has high consequences is a risk with high risk exposure and therefore one with a high priority for risk management.

When you work with classifications, a problem in prioritization can arise if the risk probability and risk effects ratings are either (high, medium) or (medium, high). In this case, it is not clear which risk should be ranked higher. An easy approach to handle this situation is to mitigate both the risks. If needed, you can differentiate between these types of risks by using actual numbers.

This approach for prioritizing risks helps focus attention on high risks, but it does not help you in making a cost-benefit analysis of risk mitigation options. That is, by stating the consequences in terms of a scale rather than in terms of money value, this method does not allow you to calculate the expected loss in financial terms. Hence, you cannot analyze whether a certain risk mitigation strategy, costing a certain amount, is worth employing. Such an analysis is generally not needed, however, because the focus of risk management is usually on managing risks at the lowest cost and not on whether risk management itself is beneficial. On the other hand, if you must make a decision about whether a risk should be managed or whether it is financially smarter to leave it unmanaged, you must understand the financial impact of the risk.


Software Project Management in Practice
Linux Annoyances for Geeks: Getting the Most Flexible System in the World Just the Way You Want It
ISBN: 0596008015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 83
Authors: Michael Jang

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