Prepare a contingency plan As part of a good risk plan, you should spell out the actions to take if risk events occur, so that you can respond to those events quickly and effectively.
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A complete and detailed project plan can guide you through the expected events of your project. But what will guide you through the unexpected events, especially those events that pose a risk to your project?
A risk management plan (risk management plan: A document defining how risk will be managed throughout the project. It can include identified risks, probabilities, contingency plans and methods for implementing them, and a strategy for allocating resources if a risk event occurs.) enables you to deal swiftly and effectively with most risks that might arise. It should contain:
- A list of potential risks.
- Triggers, or indications, that a risk has occurred or is about to occur.
- A statement of how you plan to reduce risk.
- Which risks you will respond to and which ones you will ignore.
- The steps you will take to mitigate the risks.
In addition, your risk management plan should cover who is responsible for managing each kind of risk, how you will allocate cost (cost: The total scheduled cost for a task, resource, or assignment, or for an entire project. This is sometimes referred to as the current cost. In Project, baseline costs are usually referred to as "budget.") and schedule (schedule: The timing and sequence of tasks within a project. A schedule consists mainly of tasks, task dependencies, durations, constraints, and time-oriented project information.) reserves, and the conditions for implementing alternative strategies.
You can write your risk management plan in any word-processing program. Then you can link the plan to your project file in Microsoft Office Project.
If you are using Microsoft Office Project Web Access 2003 (Project Web Access: The Web-based user interface that is used to access information in Project Server.), you can create and view risks that you can share with others.
Identify high-risk tasks Critical to risk management is identifying those tasks that are most likely to take longer than expected, end beyond their finish dates, delay the start or finish of other tasks, or cause the project to finish late.
Click all of the following that apply:
- Show tasks with estimated durations to see tasks that have uncertain lengths. Tasks with estimated durations (estimated duration: A duration for which you have only enough information to determine a tentative value. So that its status is clearly visible, an estimated duration is clearly marked by a question mark immediately following the duration unit.) contribute to uncertainty in the project end date.
- Show tasks with long durations to see the tasks that represent greater risk to the project finish date and cost. If you want to adjust your project's schedule, budget, or resource workload, adjusting lengthy tasks can make the biggest impact.
- Show tasks with external dependencies to see which tasks might be delayed by tasks outside your project, increasing the risk of missing the project deadline.
- Use PERT analysis to evaluate your schedule based on the weighted average of the optimistic (optimistic duration: The best-case possibility for the total span of active working time expected for a task, that is, the amount of time from the optimistic start to optimistic finish of a task.), pessimistic (pessimistic duration: The worst-case possibility for the total span of active working time expected for a task, that is, the amount of time from the pessimistic start to pessimistic finish of a task.), and expected (expected duration: The total span of active working time expected for a task, that is, the amount of time from the expected start to the expected finish of a task.) durations of the tasks.
Identify budget risks To see those tasks that are over budget, likely to become over budget, or likely to cause the entire project to go over budget, you need to identify your project's budget risks.
Click all of the following that apply:
- Show cost totals to view the cost for each task or resource. You can identify tasks or resources with budget risks and adjust the task or resource costs to bring the total project cost within budget.
- Show overbudget costs to see tasks or resources that exceed their budgets. These tasks or resources could put your overall project budget at risk.
- Analyze project performance with earned value analysis to determine how much of the budget should have been spent, in view of the amount of work done so far and the baseline cost for the task, assignment, or resources.
Identify resource risks Resource risks include those resources who are working near, at, or over their maximum availability; who can delay the project if absent; or who have specialized skills that the project depends on.
Click all of the following that apply:
Consult with other sources to identify risks If you want to know which key people and other sources can help you identify risks and how to consult those sources, you need to have an effective means of communication.
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The sources that can best help you identify risks (risk: An event or situation that may negatively affect project scope, schedule, budget, or quality.) are the task (task: An activity that has a beginning and an end. Project plans are made up of tasks.) list, the schedule (schedule: The timing and sequence of tasks within a project. A schedule consists mainly of tasks, task dependencies, durations, constraints, and time-oriented project information.), and the key people involved in planning and running the project. In your Project plan, look first at the critical path (critical path: The series of tasks that must be completed on schedule for a project to finish on schedule. Each task on the critical path is a critical task.) tasks, then at noncritical tasks (noncritical task: A task with slack time that can be completed after its end date without delaying the project finish date. Slack is the amount of time that a task can slip before it affects another task's dates or the project finish date.). Look for:
- Tasks that your team has little or no expertise in. The duration (duration: The total span of active working time that is required to complete a task. This is generally the amount of working time from the start to finish of a task, as defined by the project and resource calendar.) and cost (cost: The total scheduled cost for a task, resource, or assignment, or for an entire project. This is sometimes referred to as the current cost. In Project, baseline costs are usually referred to as "budget.") estimates for these tasks may be inaccurate.
- Duration and cost estimates that are very optimistic. Ask the estimators how confident they are in their estimates, especially for critical tasks (critical task: A task that must be completed on schedule for the project to finish on time. If a critical task is delayed, the project completion date might also be delayed. A series of critical tasks makes up a project's critical path.).
- Tasks that have few resources (resources: The people, equipment, and material that are used to complete tasks in a project.) available or that can be done only by resources with special skills. Especially look at parts of the schedule where these resources are fully allocated (resource allocation: The assignment of resources to tasks in a project.), overallocated (overallocation: The result of assigning more tasks to a resource than the resource can accomplish in the working time available.), or might become unavailable (for example, by leaving your project for a promotion or to work on another project). If you are using Microsoft Office Project Web Access 2003 (Project Web Access: The Web-based user interface that is used to access information in Project Server.), and your organization has created custom outline codes (outline codes: Custom tags you define for tasks or resources that allow you to show a hierarchy of the tasks in your project that is different from WBS codes or outline numbers. You can create up to 10 sets of custom outline codes in your project.) to define resource skill sets, you can use these codes in addition to other fields (field: A location in a sheet, form, or chart that contains a specific kind of information about a task, resource, or assignment. For example, in a sheet, each column is a field. In a form, a field is a named box or a place in a column.) in the Resource Sheet view (view: The combination of one or more views [Gantt Chart, Resource Sheet, and so on] and if applicable, a table and a filter. Use views to work with information in a variety of formats. There are three types of views: Charts or graphs, Sheets, and Forms.). See your project management administrator (server administrator: An individual responsible for setting up fields, views, and reports for an organization and setting up and maintaining the server and server software.) to learn which custom outline codes have been set up for your organization.
- Tasks with several predecessors (predecessor: A task that must start or finish before another task can start or finish.). The more predecessors a task depends on, the greater the chance that one of those predecessors might finish late and delay the task.
But you might not identify all of your project risks if you analyze only the project schedule. You should also meet with key project resources and ask them to identify risks. Let experienced project managers review your plan, and talk to people who are experts in specific areas of the project. For example, if you're working with a contractor, talk to people who have used that contractor.
Specify risk probability If you are using Project Server (Project Server: A Project companion product that enables collaborative planning and status reporting among workgroup members, project managers, and other stakeholders by working with and exchanging project information on a Web site.), you can determine how likely it is that a task will incur a risk that causes a loss of money or a project delay.