Risk Mitigation is Risky Business

Talking Tech

21 December 2015

A common analogy used by IT project and test managers is that running a project is like herding a bunch of cats. As we know, most cats cannot be herded into a pack, and neither can project teams. Each role in a project has a different definition of what quality means to them, and most important of all, they all vary on what is considered a risk or an issue.

Risk Management has been emerging over the last few years with a new focus, to embrace risk in a way that provides opportunity to achieve successful technology outcomes. Facilitating and managing a risk process across a project and all its stakeholders allows a disparate group of people to work with uncertainty while at the same time having a common understanding and definition of the quality outcomes expected.

The modern formula for risk management is to use it as an abstract process, not to rely on data or hard evidence all the time. Assessing risk is not meant to be the negative voice prophesising failure; it’s future based, imagining the implementation is already across the line, and brainstorming the plan to get to the future state.

Risk management helps projects define a future state.

Performing regular risk assessment across projects allows the teams to have unreasonable conversations with reasonable people. Focusing on making decisions, choosing the quality outcomes, allowing the opportunity to fail fast and learn from it.

Facilitating a risk workshop can often be fraught with undercurrent – people feeling as though the process implies that they don’t know how to do their jobs properly. They can elicit a lot of noise at times – rumour and conjecture, but the end result is that all points of view are heard, some of which can really add value, or simply put doubt to rest as the mitigation will be to find out more about what you need to know.

Remember who is standing on that Go/No Go line, placing hand on heart, waiting to give the big green light it’s all good to go. The shepherds crook is being passed to the business owner. What is going through their mind, and at the back of it, is a big neon sign flashing and asking whether all the high risk components of the implementation have been exposed? Has the project really understood the appetite for risk and accommodated for it?

Using a risk based approach to project and test management frameworks is a sure way to deliver the desired quality result, to achieve the “deliver Fast IT” dream.

Behind all of these wonderful new applications could be a messy, old and spaghetti like mix of systems, interface connectivity, bandwidth, security, and transaction processing power vs an impatient customer base that wants everything right now!

Managing by risk provides an opportunity for clarity, order out of chaos and collaborative decision making with accountable ownership to get a quality outcome over the line.

Written by Karolyn Gainfort, KJR Principal Consultant

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