Risk tools - help or hindrance?

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Posted by APM on 17th May 2011

The APM Risk SIG held an event on Thursday 26th May 2011 entitled Risk tools - help or hindrance? The conference was designed for anyone who is using, or considering developing or buying, a risk tool to help manage their project, programme or portfolio.

Trevor Jay of Risk Decisions gave a presentation entitled Make or buy the value of proprietary tools

He suggested that the risk process produces lots of data and we need tools for data storage, analysis and reporting. But should we develop our own risk tool or buy a commercial product? Lots of people decide on the DIY approach, creating something bespoke to meet their specific needs, rather than buying a proprietary risk tool. But is this a false economy? Trevor explored the issues and made the case for the vendor.

John Summers of Rio Tinto spoke about how to choose the right risk tool . His presentation covered the fact that selecting the right risk tool is not easy. The market is saturated with offerings and there is little independent professional guidance available to a prospective purchaser. Not only is there a range of tools available, each has its own capabilities and limitations. The challenge facing an organisation seeking a risk tool is knowing how to make a rational decision (a great deal hangs on the decision) and how to make sure the selected tool lives up to its claims. His presentation described how a major international FTSE 100 company went about selecting, configuring and deploying a risk tool; the challenges encountered and how these were overcome.

Mark Swabey of Risk Reasoning spoke about using risk tools to support effective risk communication

Risk communication in any project needs to be undertaken via a number of routes between team members, teams and management, suppliers and procurers, management and customers, management and stakeholders. Risk management tools should, ideally, support all of these communication routes.

However, communications require careful management if they are to be effective what, how much detail, when, why(?), to whom, from whom.

The presentation showed how risk tools can affect risk communication, and why this can have a fundamental impact on the success, or failure, of risk management in projects. It showed why risk tool designers need a knowledge of the needs and motivations of each type of user in order to design risk tools that really do support effective risk communication.

Ian Wallace of Palisade/CP Training gave a presentation entitled Monte Carlo why bother?

A large part of project management boils down to being confident and appearing to be in control; not only in meeting deadlines but also in achieving the desired outcomes, some of which take years to accrue. When people are confident, resources are easily available, morale is high and generally a project manager's life is a lot easier. On the other hand, when confidence is low, life gets very tough!

This precious commodity called 'confidence' needs to be closely guarded. Ian talked about his experience as a project manager and how a probabilistic risk register, built directly into your project plan, allows you to track the current likelihood of success. More importantly, Monte Carlo simulation enables you to stress test a project plan with thousands of permutations and outcomes in order to find the key weaknesses and exposures. You can then suggest added value solutions and demonstrate even greater control and understanding to the stakeholders.

The following exhibitors were present

Risk Reasoning demonstrating Risk Aid
IRIS Intelligence demonstrating IRIS Expert and IRIS Professional
Risk Decisions demonstrating Predict!
Palisade demonstrating Decision Tools including @Risk and Precision Tree
 Active Risk Group demonstrating Active Risk Management
Into Risk demonstrating Report Back
Cura Software Solutions demonstrating Cura Enterprise
riskHive Ltd demonstrating Arrisca and Enterprise Risk Manager
Oracle demonstrating Primavera Pertmaster and Crystal Ball
NUF Consultancy Ltd demonstrating Project Risk and Opportunity Management System (PROMS-MC)

All the presentations can be downloaded below.

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