“Beginner’s Guide to Project Risk Identification Complete with Workshop Toolkit” on Smartsheet, October 10, 2020.
When Should Risks Be Identified in a Project?
Alan Zucker, Founding Principal at Project Management Essentials, confirms the need to identify risks throughout the lifecycle of a project. “The business case and project charter should identify the project’s opportunities — why are we undertaking this effort — and the threats that could derail it. We should continue identifying risks until the project is formally closed. New risks will materialize from internal projects or external sources,” he says.
Although risk identification is a continuous process, it should begin before project risk assessment and project risk analysis, and before you finalize your project risk management plan.
Project Risk Identification Best Practices
- Learn Lessons from Past Projects: Always review similar past projects as part of your risk identification process. “Many risks from prior projects will manifest in future ones, so old risk registers can be a good starting point for review,” suggests Zucker. “Also, use checklists from other projects in your organization,” says Zucker. “Many people execute similar projects and encounter the same risks. A checklist reduces the effort and ensures we do not forget a common risk.”
- Review Industry Data: Project managers don’t need to start from scratch when identifying risks. “Many industries have standard prompt lists, benchmarks, and common risks that can be a starting point and help us look beyond our current horizon,” says Zucker.
- Interview All Relevant Personnel: The more people you consult about risk identification, the less likely you are to run into surprises during project execution. “Brainstorm possible risks with the project team and key stakeholders,” says Zucker. “Also, interview subject matter experts who can provide insight into potential risks.”