Project Management Basics: Risk Management

To manage risk, it’s essential to have a clear and precise definition of what the project is tasked to deliver.
March 29, 2022
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Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism. - Arnold Bennett

These could have been the words of someone working in project management. Although often fuelled by optimism, projects benefit greatly from a healthy dose of pessimism—especially complex projects like customer-facing ones that straddle multiple resources, cross-functional stakeholders, and critical timelines.

This healthy pessimism makes risk management a must-have for effective project management. 

What is project risk management?

A risk is anything that could impact your project’s effectiveness, budget, or timeline. Risk management, then, is the process of identifying, analyzing, and responding to any risks that could arise during a project cycle. Its goal is to ensure that your project stays within its scope and is on track to succeed.

To manage risk, it’s essential to have a clear and precise definition of what the project is tasked to deliver. A detailed project charter with the project vision, objectives, scope, and deliverables is a great starting point.

Types of risks in project management

In a customer-facing project such as onboarding, your risk management must cover at least the below categories: 

Execution risks

The implementation/execution phase is the most crucial phase of the entire onboarding process. The risks here include the availability of resources, stakeholder commitment, and other tools (such as those for data migration or data onboarding).

Integration risks

When implementing large projects for enterprises, there is a risk that your solution would not work with their existing ecosystem. Ensure that your risk management plan accounts for third-party integration/support. 

Usage/adoption risks

Whether it’s gaps in training or end-user reluctance to adopt a new product, your risk management approach should consider how the end user’s preparedness and behavior could impact the project's success.

Data security/compliance risks  

Understand the customer’s approvals/compliance framework to consider risks arising from delayed approvals, additional compliance requirements, and data security requirements. 

The most common causes of risk in project management

Project planning and scheduling 

Project scheduling has a considerable role to play in successful project management. Ensure that you have a living document (or dashboard) that details the timeline and the resources required at each project stage.
For instance, Rocketlane has a timeline/presentation view that onboarding teams can use to plan their projects and communicate and share them with customers.

Rocketlane’s presentation view for project plans with phases, tasks, resources, & timelines

Scope creep

This happens when the project parameters are not well-defined or when new tasks find their way into the project without getting the visibility they need.
To prevent this, make sure that you:
a) Outline precisely what the project entails
b) Have visibility into every task that’s part of the project

Communication issues

Poor communication and lack of clarity pose a huge yet mostly avoidable project risk. By choosing a project management tool designed for collaboration, you can build a foundation of communication and transparency for your project.

The 5-step risk management process

Generally speaking, risk management consists of the following steps.

Risk identification

To identify risks in your customer onboarding projects, get your project team, your customer’s key stakeholders (and their vendors/partners, if applicable) for a risk identification session. 

Your team’s records and experiences with other projects are an archive of knowledge that you can use to identify risks. Use data on past projects to understand and highlight issues that have caused project delays/deviations. 

Risk analysis

An essential part of risk management, it allows you to understand your project's risks with a significant level of confidence.  

Project management tools like Rocketlane can help you analyze risk through dashboards that give you a high-level view of your projects through all their stages.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment matrix is a great tool to analyze your project’s risk. It is simply a visual representation of the risk landscape for a particular project that considers the likelihood of a risk and its impact on the project.

Source: toolshero

However, this is never a one-time task. Risks and their impact are constantly evolving. Make sure to re-evaluate your risk landscape periodically based on data and learnings from recent projects. 

Risk management 

Gantt charts can help you create detailed risk management plans that prevent risks from becoming issues while ensuring complete visibility. 

Rocketlane’s Gantt chart feature allows team members to add comments and files to their tasks, so all the communication happens on the project level—in real-time.

You can also take things a step further by assigning owners to risks such that they’re responsible for tracking, managing, and mitigating specific risks, and you avoid the chance of risks slipping through the cracks.

Risk monitoring

Status updates are crucial to risk monitoring and ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same page. 

Rocketlane’s status updates ensure that customers always have visibility into the project's current status and that any deviations are brought to light.

Make sure you have a way to get visibility into – and insights from – each phase of your project. For example, Rocketlane’s portfolio view enables you to monitor all projects and get granular visibility into each project's tasks, progress, and phase. 

Try Rocketlane for project management 

Rocketlane is a robust project management tool that is custom-built for customer-facing projects. You can collaborate with customers to work on projects, documents, and checklists, assign tasks, get feedback, and track deadlines—all on a single tab. 

Rocketlane can help you identify, diagnose, and fix problems well in advance. Dive into details of at-risk tasks, factors blocking project progress delayed milestones, and nip problems right at the source. 

Our comprehensive reports give you much-needed insight into how your team and projects perform at a granular level: 

  1. Get better as a team: Uncover key insights, benchmarks, and trends on how you are performing and delivering on each milestone.
  2. Project Reports: Our project reports are automated and allow you to identify bottlenecks and know where things stand, so you can step in much before anything goes wrong. 
  3. People Reports: Get notified about each member’s task updates with our weekly reports and evaluate your team’s performance.

Sign up here for a 14-day free trial.

More resources

  1. Project Management Basics: Innovation Management
  2. Getting to the root cause of problems in project management
  3. 10 Project Management Tools You Can Use for Customer Onboarding
  4. Customer onboarding templates for every stage of your onboarding journey

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Rahul Sridhar
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Content Marketer at Rocketlane. Former teacher turned tech writer. Occasionally dabbles in comedy and rap music.

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