Typical Project Risks

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

project risksRisks exist in every area of a project but the likelihood of a particular risk occurring, and the consequences to the success of the project if it does occur, are the main factors to consider in risk management within a project. It is important that the project manager does not expend too much time and energy on the risk management of those risks that are unlikely to occur or those that will have minimal impact if they do.  This is why all risks should be categorised at the outset of a project.


Take a look at these common sources of project risk to help you identify potential risks in your project.


The Scope


  • Scope not clearly defined in the Business Requirements Document
  • Scope not defined in enough detail
  • Different stakeholders fail to agree on scope
  • Changes to requirements requested mid-project
  • Acceptance criteria not documented
  • Requirements not approved by all interested parties
  • Business priorities change during the project



The Technology


  • Team members have no experience of new technology being used
  • Limitations in the software
  • Software performance issues
  • Integration with existing technology has not been tried and tested
  • Data conversion limitations




The Equipment


This could be computer hardware or manufacturing equipment required to make a new product.


  • Equipment breaks down
  • Performance/Production speed is too slow
  • Equipment capacity is too low
  • Test environments not available


The People


This area can relate to internal staff and external staff or sub-contractors. It can also relate to the customer.


  • Team members assigned to the project do not have the right skills
  • Key team members leave before the project is finished
  • Team members are not motivated
  • Team members do not make adequate progress with tasks
  • Team members are not available for meetings
  • Team members do not follow schedule
  • Staff involved in specifying the requirements are replaced
  • Customer does not approve interim stages
  • Customer reviews not carried out
  • Adequate customer resources not assigned to project
  • Resistance in some parts of the customer organisation to the project
  • Unrealistically high customer expectations
  • Lack of customer responsibility for the project



I haven’t mentioned the project manager in this list of potential “people” risks but it could also be the case that the project manager is inexperienced or has no experience of a particular type of project. This will result in the project plan itself being a cause of risk, with potentially poor estimates, a poor grasp of dependencies and failure to manage the people, time and budget well.


Hopefully, the project manager will have had formal training in project management techniques and have attended some project management courses so that the schedule itself is not one of the potential sources of risk.



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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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