WORK Project Management

Posted on December 18, 2018 by: Collin Smith, Digital Project Manager

The beginning of every project is a crucial time. It sets the tone for the entire project and can either propel you forward or weigh you down, depending on how you approach the unknowns. Project managers have the responsibility to their clients and internal teams to help prepare for the inevitable pitfalls and issues that await every project. Risk analysis and management is the perfect ploy for project managers and teams to help alleviate the stresses of any potential threats ahead of them. These three phases of risk management will help you identify risks, pinpoint the potential effects if the risk comes to fruition, and allow you to come up with a game plan to tackle issues that arise during the project.

Phase 1: Determine
While sounding very complicated on the surface, I’ve found that, in practice, risk management boils down to the process of looking ahead of a project and examining potential threats to the timeline and budget or performance and functionality of the website. I’ve outlined some questions for a project manager to ask their team to help articulate potential risks in their projects before beginning. Project managers should encourage their team members to help identify and ultimately try to mitigate these risks.

  1. Is the client requiring use of a new or outdated framework that the developers are unfamiliar with?
  2. Will a new technology be incorporated with this site build that the developers are unfamiliar with?
  3. Is there specific information that won’t be available until later in the project and could cause changes to functionality or style?
  4. Is the timeline too compact, thus causing overtime and rushed work with potentially lower quality?
  5. Is the client requesting something out of budget, but expecting you to cut corners to make it work?
  6. Are there certain browser restrictions that may come into play (specifically with rendering files)?
  7. What internal/external dependencies are involved and what is the impact of late delivery of assets/content?

Phase 2: Evaluate
Once the team has mapped out a list of risks involved with a project, it’s the project manager’s role to dissect each one and think about the ramifications regarding the budget and timeline. Including extra costs in the budget for known risks is necessary to alleviate budget constraints when the problems eventually come. Work with the developer to diagnose costs associated with correcting any potential issues. Including a buffer of time is also crucial when issues arise as the developers will need to spend time fixing that issue rather than on the scoped items, which can push back the schedule. Lastly, it is important that the project manager communicates the risks and costs associated with the client up front in case they do come up later. Communicating these risks will allow everyone to be on the same page with the plan to minimize the effect of an issue. If no known risks come to fruition, your client will be exceedingly pleased to come in under budget and early.

Phase 3: Manage
As the project progresses, you’re bound to run into some of the issues that you forecast, but you also may find new issues arising that you hadn’t thought of. Here are some helpful ways to identify new risks as the project continues, as well as ways to mitigate the damage caused when they occur.

  1. Create a plan of attack for any risks that occur throughout the project. Work with the developers to solve the risk before it even happens.
  2. Compile all known risks in a helpful way that’s accessible for all key players in a project to reference.
  3. In your scrums, be asking your teams: “What are you worried about, what’s keeping you awake at night?”

Conclusion
I’ve found risk analysis and management to be essential for the successful delivery of a project. Not detailing the risks up front has caused me to be more proactive and take risks seriously when it comes to planning the budget and timeline. I hope these questions and techniques will help you to not only identify the risks, but also to come up with an effective resolution should they come about.

TL;DR
Run projects for a living? Want to mitigate risks? Just give a DEM – determine, evaluate, manage.
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