- Business impact
- Project organisation
- Project planning
How risky is your project? A bit of backgroundHow do you answer the question 'How risky is your project?' As David Hilson explains 'the overall riskiness of your project is more than the sum of individual threats and opportunities.' (Hilson, 2014). In other words, you can't just 'roll-up' or summarise your risk register.
Two perspectives on project riskIn project management there are two perspectives of project risk. The project manager and project team think in terms of risks to the delivery of the project. The project sponsor and senior execs think in terms of how risky the project is as a whole. The PMI handle these two perspectives by defining individual risk and overall risk:
“Individual risk” is defined as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives.”
“Overall project risk” is defined as “the effect of uncertainty on the project as a whole.”
PMBOK p. 310
Assessing overall project risk with our templateThis template is designed to help you assess overall project risk through a series of questions covering project organisation, planning, technology and planning.
It can be created at the start of the project, and at the end of each phase in the lifecycle. It is good practice to include the creation and sign-off of the risk assessment as project activities in the project schedule.
Answering ‘no’ to one of more of these questions doesn’t mean that the project must be halted. It is a prompt for understanding the risk, assessing its impact and probability and deciding on mitigating actions.
Some of these questions are tailored to an IT project, but most apply to any project. Add, edit or delete questions to suit your project and business.
See what is in the Template! Check out the Contents complete with Hints and Tips on how to use.
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The contents of the Project Risk Assessment Template
Field Description and guidance completion
Answer these questions to assess how the project could impact the day to day running of the business, and check that there are good business reasons for the project.
- Have all the cost impacts to the business been documented?
- Has the impact to daily operations been documented?
- Have the impacts to existing processes been documented?
- Have the schedule impacts to business activities been identified?
- Does the project have a Business Case, which has been approved?
- Have the benefits of the project been fully identified?
- Will the project require funding beyond that originally allocated to the project?
- Has the project considered the businesses financial time-frames and processes?
Project Organisation Risks
Answer these questions to check that the project will be properly managed and that there is appropriate governance in place.
- Has sufficient funding been approved for the project?
- Has a qualified project manager been assigned to the project?
- Does the qualified project manager have sufficient time to manage the project?
- Has the project identified all relevant stakeholders?
- Are there any high interest/high power stakeholders who can’t be accessed/influenced?
- Is there a Stakeholder Engagement plan in place?
- Does the scope of the project align with our company mission?
- Has the Project Sponsor been identified?
- Does the Project Sponsor have the time, and do they understand their responsibilities for the project?
- Has a project steering committee been established within a project governance plan?
- Is there adequate staffing and resources for the project?
- Is a Change Management Plan in place or is one planned?
- Is there a RACI in place or is one planned?
These questions will help you to identify any risks around the project requirements.
- Have the business requirements been documented?
- Have the stakeholders approved all documented business requirements?
- Are the documented requirements defined in measurable terms?
- Are requirements prioritized – i.e. essential, conditional, or optional?
- Has an initial impact analysis been performed on the business requirements – i.e., cost, operations, support?
- Is there a well-defined and institutionalized change control process for requirements?
- Is there a clear process for tracking progress and controlling each requirement? For example, is there a requirements traceability matrix?
These questions are designed to establish what risks the project will face from the technology that will be produced and/or used during the project.
- Will existing technologies be used? In other words, does the project avoid developing products from scratch?
- Is the project planning to implement a COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf”) solution?
- If COTS solution is anticipated will it require significant customization, other than built in set-up/start up configurations?
- Does we have experience with the underlying technology or hardware/operating system environment?
- Is there a test environment with an established process for moving from test to production?
- Is there at least a tentative plan for Business Continuity?
These questions are designed to check whether the project has been adequately planned at start up. You may want to add questions to assess any risks arising from detailed planning.
- Does the plan include the appropriate time and cost contingency?
- Does the plan include the appropriate time and cost estimates?
- Has a product planning methodology been chosen appropriate for the complexity of the solution and the knowledge of the project team?
- Has the project adequately identified the constraints and assumptions of the project?
- Has the project adequately identified the project risks, with probability, impact, mitigation and or contingencies?
- Is there a Risk Management Plan and a Risk Register in place or will they be created?
- Are there significant dependencies on other projects or staff resources?
Project Risk Assessment Template
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ReferencesA Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (Project Management Institute, 2013, p. 310).
Hillson, D. (2014). How risky is your project — And what are you doing about it? Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2014—North America, Phoenix, AZ. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
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