Risk management is an important activity on both traditional and agile projects. This article will introduce a method for quickly visualizing the risk status of a project and identifying risk trends.
A widely accepted definition of a risk is:
“A discreet occurrence that may affect the project for good or bad”
However, I prefer the less comprehensive, but higher impact statement:
“Today’s risks could be tomorrow’s problems”
We need to actively attack risks before they become problems on the project. Unfortunately, all too often risk analysis and risk management steps are conducted alongside the regular project tasks rather than being drivers for work scheduling. Risk management plans and risk lists are created, but their findings do not influence task selection and scheduling, then risks occur and people identify the issue “Oh look, risk #4 occurred”, but the risk mitigation steps had never made it into the project plan.
Agile projects have many opportunities to actively attack the risks on a project before they can become tomorrow’s problems. Iterative development allows high risk work to be tackled early in the lifecycle. Features (or stories) that carry high risk can be undertaken in early iterations to prove technology and remove doubts. Carefully balancing the delivery of business value and risk reduction is a wise strategy for feature selection that I will write more on shortly. Until then how do we illustrate the risks on our projects to all stakeholders?