Project risk

Avoiding pitfalls, seizing opportunities

Projects may be very different but there's one thing they all share: risk. Will you fulfil your objectives? Deliver on time and to budget? Can management stay focused on your core business needs while you're involved in it? Are you looking at financing - or even insolvency?

These are all important questions - but not ones you want to be asking when a project is up and running. Which is why effective plans, controls and risk management are absolutely vital.

Types of project risk
There are many things that can go wrong with a project - from wrong or poor funding to late deliveries and cost overruns. The risks to your organisation are clear:

Reduced return on investment - higher costs and missed market opportunities

Burden on management time - form stakeholder concerns to contractual disputes

Impact on business as usual - including staff time and operational changes

Reputational damage - lasting impact on your business

Getting it right
Effective project management begins with the projects you choose. Do yours support your business strategy? Are they based on realistic business cases and objectives? If they are, then your project teams will need to understand exactly what those business objectives and priorities are from the start.

You will then need processes and systems that cover all key risks as well as project status information that is reliable and timely. That way you will be able to spot issues early, manage interventions and minimise time and cost leakage. So is your project reporting reliable and does it have independent verification?

The quality of the people working on projects is, of course, just as vital. Are key roles filled by people with the necessary skills and expertise? Are project team members motivated to make the project succeed?

Project management arrangements should be reviewed throughout the lifecycle of a project. This means assessing governance, risk and quality management as well as procurement strategies, forecast out-turn and management reporting.

With learning points captured as you progress, Board members and key stakeholders can be kept informed. Expectations then remain realistic, regulatory obligations can be met and your project can deliver the return on investment you planned for.