Project Risk Management with Excel Risk Register

Project Risk Management is a basic task for any project manager no matter how big or small the project. Below is a simple 3 step process for project risk management which includes identifying risks, documenting them and then monitoring them.

Project Risk Management
Project Risk Management

Step 1 : Identify project risks

  • The identification of risks should be done before the project starts so this is the first step in the risk management process. 
  • Generally, the project manager will conduct a risk assessment workshop. 
  • The workshop should be conducted with the project team and the stakeholders. 
  • The project manager should have a open discussion with the team and stakeholders to understand if they have any concerns with the project. 
  • During this exercise you might discover issues which already exist in the project. 
  • The project team should be able to discuss issues which could be related to day to day execution of the projects. 
  • In an IT project these could be lack of skills, lack of environments or lack of requirements. 
  • The stakeholders which could be the senior management or business managers could provide some insight into organisational impacts of the project, impact on the business or lack of visibility etc. 
  • In some organisations the project risks and issues are part of the project proposal or initiation documents. 
  • It is the responsibility of the project manager to make sure that the project proposal document has all the risks documented.
Generally, you would be able to classify the risks into at least two categories - project and organizational. Project risks would be the risks which are related to the project - example is resource dependency. Organizational risk would be any risk can affect the reputation of the entire organization - example would be a security breach or privacy violation caused by a project.

Examples of common types of risks encountered in IT Projects -
  1. Resourcing Issues - generally some one is going on leave or leaving the organisation.
  2. Technical Challenges - most of the projects will have some sort of technical challenges,
  3. Change Management - the project team and stakeholders may not be confident that the project change will be well managed.
  4. Quality Risk - If there are any risks that the quality of the project deliverable may not meet the quality assurance of the organisations. 
  5. Schedule Risk - Are there any factors which can affect the project schedule? Does the project need any new environments?

Step 2 : Document risks and issues in the register

Risk Register Excel
Risk Register Sample

After you have identified all the risks and issues as a project manager its your responsibility to create a issues register and risks register. This is the second step in the risk management process.

Risk Register - A risk register is a document which is used to capture project risks. It can contain the following -  

  • Risk Serial Number - sequence number for risks for the current project.
  • Risk Title - title for the risk. This needs to be short and crisp.
  • Risk Description / Impact -  detailed description of the risk. It is important to clearly explain what is the impact if the risk eventuates.  Generally, there would be a schedule impact or budget impact. 
  • Identified Date - Date on which it was identified.
  • Risk Category - Project or Organisational. You may check with PMO or Risks department to understand if there are any other categories.
  • Risk Sub-Category (Optional) - Budget, resourcing, schedule,quality  etc.
  • Status - Open, Closed.
  • Owner -  name of the person or team which is responsible for mitigation. Try and specific here as the person who is responsible for this risk needs to know that he or she should be doing something.
  • Risk Rating - Critical, high, medium and low.
  • Possible Mitigation - Steps which can be taken to mitigate the risk.
  • Date Closed - the date on which the risk was closed.
  • Comments(optional- a free text field.

Issues Register - The issues register will be similar to the risks register. In fact it can be simpler than the risk register. You can have the following fields for an issues register - 

  • Issue Serial Number - sequence number for risks for the current project.
  • Issue Title - title for the issue.
  • Description / Impact -  detailed description of the issue.
  • Identified Date - Date on which it was identified.
  • Status - Open, Closed.
  • Owner -  name of the person or team which is responsible for mitigation.
  • Issue Impact - Critical, high, medium and low.
  • Action Taken - Steps which are taken to address the issue.
  • Date Closed - the date on which the issue was closed.
  • Corresponding Risk(optional) - If the issue is related to an already identified risk.
  • Comments(optional- a free text field.

Step 3 : Monitor project risks and issues

The most difficult part of project risk management. Majority of the project managers religious follow step 1 and step 2 but then do not monitor the project for new issues and risks. Monitoring of the risks can be done in a few ways -
  1. Always keep an eye on the count of risks and issues. If you have too many "highs" then its time to review the list.Having regular risk and issue registers review with the project team. 
  2. You can make it part of the project team meeting. 
  3. Attend all the project meetings - technical requirement gathering, scrum meetings, review workshops, demo etc. to identify any new issues or risks. 
  4. Include the current risks and issues in the project status report. 
  5. Make the senior management and stakeholders aware of risks and issues on a regular basis. 
  6. Including risks/issues in the status reports will make sure that everyone goes through the risks and issues on a weekly basis.
Swapnil Wale

Written by

Swapnil Wale is an IT Professional based in Sydney, Australia with over 10 years of experience in technology and project management. He is a passionate blogger and focuses on project management and BRMS articles.


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