20 Common Project Risks - example Risk Register

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This is a FREE risk register that contains 20 common project risks with mitigating and contingency actions that you can take against each one.

20 Common Project Risks

These are the 20 common project risks which we have included in the risk register along with suggested mitigating actions and contingency actions

  1. Project purpose and need is not well-defined.
  2. Project design and deliverable definition is incomplete.
  3. Project schedule is not clearly defined or understood
  4. No control over staff priorities
  5. Consultant or contractor delays
  6. Estimating and/or scheduling errors
  7. Unplanned work that must be accommodated
  8. Lack of communication, causing lack of clarity and confusion.
  9. Pressure to arbitrarily reduce task durations and or run tasks in parallel which would increase risk of errors.
  10. Scope creep
  11. Unresolved project conflicts not escalated in a timely manner
  12. Business Case becomes obsolete or is undermined by external or internal changes.
  13. Delay in earlier project phases jeopardizes ability to meet fixed date. For example delivery of just in time materials, for conference or launch date.
  14. Added workload or time requirements because of new direction, policy, or statute
  15. Inadequate customer testing leads to large post go live snag list.
  16. Legal action delays or pauses project.
  17. Customer refuses to approve deliverables/milestones or delays approval, putting pressure on project manager to 'work at risk'.
  18. Theft of materials, intellectual property or equipment.
  19. Acts of God for example, extreme weather, leads to loss of resources, materials, premises etc.
  20. Stakeholder action delays project.

Completed risk register with 20 project risks you need to manage

ID Risk description Likelihood of the risk occurring Impact if the risk occurs Severity
Rating based on impact & likelihood.
Owner
Person who will manage the risk. 
Mitigating action
Actions to mitigate the risk e.g. reduce the likelihood.
Contingent action
Action to be taken if the risk happens.
Progress on actions Status
1 Project purpose and need is not well-defined. Medium High High Project Sponsor Complete a business case if not already provided and ensure purpose is well defined on Project Charter and PID.  Escalate to the Project Board with an assessment of the risk of runaway costs/never-ending project.  Business case re-written with clear deliverables and submitted to the project board for approval.  Open
2 Project design and deliverable definition is incomplete. Low High High Project Sponsor Define the scope in detail via design workshops with input from subject matter experts.  Document assumptions made and associated risks. Request high risk items that are ill-defined are removed from scope.  Design workshops scheduled. Open
3 Project schedule is not clearly defined or understood Low Medium Medium Project Manager Hold scheduling workshops with the project team so they understand the plan and likelihood of missed tasks is reduced.  Share the plan and go through upcoming tasks at each weekly project progress meeting.  Workshops scheduled. Open
4 No control over staff priorities Medium Medium Medium Project Manager The Project Sponsor will brief team managers on the importance of the project. Soft book resources as early as possible and then communicate final booking dates asap after the scheduling workshops. Identify back ups for each human resource on the  project.  Escalate to the Project Sponsor and bring in back up resource.  Project Sponsor has agreed to hold briefing. Now making arrangements for a meeting room.  Open
5 Consultant or contractor delays Medium High High Project Manager Include late penalties in contracts.
Build in and protect lead time in the schedule.
Communicate schedule early.
Check in with suppliers regularly. Query '90% done'. Ask again and again if they need anything else.
Escalate to Project Sponsor and Contracts Manager. Implement late clauses. Lead time from each contractor built into the project schedule. Late penalties agreed to and contracts signed.  Open
6 Estimating/or scheduling errors Medium High High Project Manager Break this two risks 'cost estimating' and 'scheduling errors'.
Use two methods of cost estimation, and carefully track costs and forecast cost at completion making adjustments as necessary.
Build in 10% contingency on cost and scheduling.
Track schedules daily and include schedule review as an agenda item in every project team meeting.
Flag forecast errors and/or delays to the Project Board early.
Escalate to project sponsor and project board.
Raise change request for change to budget or schedule.
Pull down contingency. 
Contingency agreed by Project Board. Open
Download this risk register of common project risks Download this risk register of common project risks
ID Risk description Likelihood of the risk occurring Impact if the risk occurs Severity
Rating based on impact & likelihood.
Owner
Person who will manage the risk. 
Mitigating action
Actions to mitigate the risk e.g. reduce the likelihood.
Contingent action
Action to be taken if the risk happens.
Progress on actions Status
7 Unplanned work that must be accommodated Low High Medium Team Manager Attend project scheduling workshops.
Check previous projects, for actual work and costs.
Check all plans and quantity surveys.
Document all assumptions made in planning and communicate to the project manager before project kick off. 
Escalate to the Project Manager with plan of action, including impact on time, cost and quality.  Team managers attending scheduling workshops.  Open
8 Lack of communication, causing lack of clarity and confusion.  Medium Medium Medium Project Manager Write communication plan which includes frequency, goal, and audience of each communication.
Identify stakeholders early and  make sure they are considered I the communication plan. Use most appropriate channel of communication for audience e.g. don't send 3 paragraph email to Developers, have a call instead. 
Correct misunderstandings immediately. Clarify areas that are not clear swiftly using assistance from Project Sponsor if needed.  Communication plan in progress.  Open
9 Pressure to arbitrarily reduce task durations and or run tasks in parallel which would increase risk of errors. Low High Medium Project Manager Share the schedule with key stakeholders to reduce the risk of this happening.
Patiently explain that schedule was built using the expertise of subject matter experts. Explain the risks of the changes. Share the Dennis Lock quote at Why you should never arbitrarily reduce task durations
Escalate to Project Board with assessment of risk and impact of the change.
Hold emergency risk  management call with decision makers & source of pressure and lay out risk and impact. 
Awaiting completion of the schedule.  Open
10 Scope creep Medium High High Project Manager Document the project scope in a Project Initiation Document or Project Charter and get it authorised by the Project Board. Refer to it throughout the project and assess all changes against it also ensuring alignment of any changes with the Business Case.  Document each and every example of scope creep NO MATTER HOW SMALL in a change order and get authorisation from the project board BEFORE STARTING WORK. This includes ZERO COST changes.  Scope clearly defined in PID.  Open
11 Unresolved project conflicts not escalated in a timely manner Low Medium Medium Project Manager Hold regular project team meetings and look out for conflicts. Review the project plan and stakeholder engagement plan for potential areas of conflict.  When aware immediately escalate to Project Board and gain assistance from Project Sponsor to resolve the conflict.  Project team meetings scheduled.  Open
12 Business Case becomes obsolete or is undermined by external or internal changes.  Low High High Project Sponsor No ability to reduce likelihood, but make sure early warning is given by reviewing business case on regular basis with the Project Board. Initiate escalation and project close down procedure.  Project  close down procedure confirmed with Project Board.  Open
13 Delay in earlier project phases jeopardizes ability to meet fixed date. For example delivery of just in time materials, for conference or launch date.  Medium High High Project Manager Ensure the project plan is as accurate as possible using scheduling workshops and work breakdown structure. Use Tracking Gantt and Baseline to identify schedule slippage early.  Consider insurance to cover costs and alternative supplier as a back up.  Awaiting completion of the schedule.  Open
14 Added workload or time requirements because of new direction, policy, or statute Low Medium Medium Project Sponsor No ability to reduce likelihood.  Consider insurance and use Project Board to get advance notice if possible.  Project Board reviewing insurance options.  Open
15 Inadequate customer testing leads to large post go live snag list.  High High High Project Manager Ensure customer prepares test cases/quality checks and protect  testing/quality assurance window.  Raise risk immediately and raise issue if it is clear testing inadequate. Customer could extend testing & bring in additional resource.  Customer preparing test cases.  Open
16 Legal action delays or pauses project.  Low Medium Medium Project Sponsor  Ensure all contracts signed before starting the project. Follow all  regulatory requirements and complete stakeholder management plan.  Escalate to Project Board who will notify legal department. Follow instructions from legal.  Contracts issued.  Open
17 Customer refuses to approve deliverables/milestones or delays approval, putting pressure on project manager to 'work at risk'.  Medium Medium Medium Project Manager Ensure customer decision maker with budgetary authority is identified  before project start and is part of the project board. Communicate dates for sign-off points up front.  Escalate to project Board and recommend action e.g. to stop the project.  Customer project manager is confirming their sponsor / senior supplier.  Open
18 Theft of materials, intellectual property or equipment. Low High High Project Manager Follow security procedures, ensure Non-Disclosure Agreements, & compliance certificates are in place. Verify all physical security measures in place. Secure insurance.  Notify appropriate authorities e.g. police, project board and initiate internal investigations.  NDAs issued. Security certificates confirmed for contractors.  Open
19 Acts of God for example, extreme weather, leads to loss of resources, materials, premises etc.  Low High High Project Manager Ensure insurance in place. Familiarise project team with emergency procedures. Where cost effective put back up systems in place e.g. generators.  Notify appropriate authorities. Follow health and safety procedures. Notify stakeholders and Project  Board.  Public Liability Insurance confirmed along with additional premises insurance at site B.  Open
20 Stakeholder action delays project.  Low High High Project Manager Identify stakeholders, analyse power and influence and create a stakeholder engagement plan. Project Board to authorise the plan. Revisit the plan at regular intervals to check all stakeholders are managed. Consider getting insurance.  Notify appropriate authorities and follow internal procedures e.g. for activist demonstrations.  Stakeholder Analysis in progress.  Open

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