Risk techniques

Definition

Risk management techniques are used to identify, assess and plan responses to individual risks and overall risk.

General

There are numerous different techniques available to assist in risk management and it is important to ensure that the correct techniques are selected and used. None of these are totally unique to P3 management; what is unique is the context in which they are employed.

Identification techniques draw on various sources of information. Identification of risks from previous projects, programmes and portfolios involves looking at lessons learned reports and risk registers. In more mature organisations these may have been collated and structured in the form of checklists and prompt lists. A P3 manager can then use these lists as an aide memoire to instigate identification of risks before moving on to other techniques.

Identifying risks through stakeholders and team members can be on a one-to-one basis or in groups. Individuals with specific knowledge or expertise may be interviewed. Groups can be brought together for brainstorming sessions or coordinated through a ‘Delphi’ process.

Since risk is inherent in all aspects of P3 management, risks will be revealed through many other P3 management processes. Stakeholder management will identify risks associated with stakeholders, solutions development will highlight technical risks, schedule management will identify risks with delivery methods, and so on. Risk identification is a component of all P3 management processes.

Techniques for assessing risks fall into two categories; qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative risk assessment focuses on individual risks and is based on educated opinion and expert judgement.

Qualitative techniques include probability and impact assessment, influence diagrams and expected value calculations. Quantitative risk assessment focuses on overall risk and is based on more numerical approaches. Typical quantitative techniques include Monte Carlo analysis, decision trees and sensitivity analysis.

Planned responses to risks vary according to whether the risk is a threat or an opportunity. The possible responses to threats are to avoid, reduce, transfer or accept them. These responses act differently on the probability that a risk will occur and the impact it will have on objectives. If the risk is an opportunity, the possible responses are to exploit, enhance, share or reject it. The two sets of responses are fundamentally the same, but tailored to minimise the detrimental effect of a threat or maximise the beneficial effect of an opportunity.

There is no one size fits all approach to the selection of techniques and they will be of most value when selected to match the context in which they are deployed. The cost, benefits and potential difficulties of using particular techniques should be understood. For risk management to be successful, a complementary and cost-effective suite of techniques should be chosen for each project, programme or portfolio.

Project

All the techniques are applicable to projects, but smaller projects can usually only justify the simpler techniques with a lower management overhead.

Large or complex projects will need to apply the more sophisticated techniques. The resources needed to implement these must be included in the risk management plan and the cost implications included in the budget.

Programme

The programme risk management plan will outline the use of techniques in its component projects. It is vitally important for the programme to set guidelines to ensure consistency. Without consistency, it is difficult to aggregate risk from the component projects and business-as-usual to get a value for the overall risk of the programme.

All identification and response techniques are applicable across the programme, but it is impractical to apply some quantitative assessment techniques, e.g. Monte Carlo analysis, at the programme level.

Portfolio

Portfolios will establish common guidelines for using risk management techniques but are also able to develop long-term attitudes and behaviour that ensure that they are used appropriately.

Portfolios are directly affected by the external environment. They need to identify risks from the broadest range of sources and may utilise techniques such as PESTLE to assess the external sources of risk.

The risk efficiency technique has been established in financial portfolios for many years. The term ‘balanced portfolio’ applies equally well to a portfolio of projects and programmes as it does to stocks, shares and other investments. This is an important technique during the ‘balance’ phase of the portfolio life cycle.

 

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