How to Create a Project Risk Register

“How to Create a Project Risk Register” on Smartsheet, November 15, 2022.

What Is the Purpose of a Project Risk Register?

A risk register helps the project team do the following:

  • Identify Risks: In addition to identifying potential risks, you’ll gain details on their potential impact. This allows you to plan ahead for how your team will deal with them.

    “Otherwise, you’re going to lose track of your risks,” Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials, says of the importance of creating and maintaining a risk register. “That’s the most basic reason. If you try to keep track of your risks in your head, you’re going to forget things and you’re not going to proactively manage and plan for that.”

Other Expert Tips for Risk Registers

Beyond the basic steps, experts offer some important tips to create and maintain a risk register. The tips will help ensure that the risk register prepares your team to handle all risks in the best possible way.

  • Don’t Ignore Anything: Even if a possible risk event seems unlikely or unlikely to affect the project, get the team together to think about it. Likely, you will include it on the risk register.

    “I have a specific memory of a project that my team took over,” Zucker says. “They were building a new [mobile] application. Before the app needed to go into production, they needed to buy a new server. We’ve got like a month before we’re ready to go into production. And the project manager says, ‘We’re going to have to delay the implementation, the deployment of the project.’ I asked: ‘How come?’ He said they needed to buy a new server, and there was an issue with getting the server. My immediate question was, ‘Was that identified in the risk register?’ He said, ‘No. We kept talking about it, but we never actually did anything in terms of tracking it.’ There would have been plenty of opportunities to do something different, but because they weren’t really formally tracking it, it fell through the cracks.”

  • Use If-Then Statements in Thinking About Risks: Your team will want to fully explore what would happen if a risk occurs. That means directly using if-then statements, says Zucker.“