25 Sep

IT Project Managers: 6 Ways to Manage Risk

Posted by John Brandwagt

Since risk is inherent in virtually every business, it only makes sense you’d need to manage risk in almost every operation, in every division, across every industry. 

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Yet risk management is something IT departments haven’t always prioritized. Now, however, IT project managers are finding more employers asking for good risk management as part of their skill set. If you find yourself in this position, consider these six ways to better manage project risks.

1. Early Identification

IT project managers should embrace the idea there are inherent risks in any and every project they undertake. Once you’ve accepted this reality, you can plan for those risks. 

One of the first steps you should take in any project is identifying the risks. Risk identification at an early stage in the project makes everyone aware of potential issues and threats right from the get-go—so everyone can be on guard for them if they crop up during the course of the project. 

The earlier the risks are identified, the better chance you have of effectively combating them.

2. Make a Plan

If you follow step one (as you should) and identify risks early, you can be proactive in managing them. The next step in the process is making a plan to deal with the identified risks. 

Knowledge is half the battle; the other half is knowing what to do about the risks you’re facing. If you have a plan, you can spring into action when any of the risk factors you’ve identified look like they could turn into a problem. 

Without a plan, identified risks still pose a problem for the project. You might be aware of what the risks are and how they could affect your project, but you may not know what actions to take when you’re confronted with the risk itself.

3. Defense Is Good Offense

“The best defense is a good offense,” or so the saying goes. IT project managers should be proactive about managing risks. In this case, being proactive means taking steps to actively reduce the risks in the project.

Identifying the risks early on is one proactive step, and having a plan is another. The plan should include preventative measures; however, it shouldn’t be something you enact when a risk rears its ugly head. Instead, you and your team should work to eliminate or reduce risks from the very start of the project.

4. Implement a Risk Management Framework

One of the best strategies IT project managers can use is to adopt a risk management framework. While most frameworks incorporate the three previous steps mentioned here—early identification, planning, and being proactive—they are often comprehensive in providing details for how you can go about managing risk.

The framework will outline your process, which should be a cycle rather than a linear process. Even if you identify risks early on, new risks can crop up during the course of the project. Undertaking risk identification and analysis periodically can alert you to new risks as they become apparent.

5. Analyze Risks

Most IT project managers know risks are not created equal, which is why you not only need to identify potential risks but analyze them as well. Once risks have been assessed and analyzed, you can prioritize. Instead of trying to tackle each and every risk, from the major to the minor, create a priority checklist and determine which risks are the biggest threats. Deal with those first, and leave the minor risks for later.

6. Communicate about Risk

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of risk management is communication. If you identify risks, but don’t communicate them to your team or other company employees, you could be setting yourself up for trouble. Instead, be sure to communicate your findings, along with your risk management policies.

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Topics: IT Industry

John Brandwagt

John is a Practice Leader at Inteqna. He’s been working in IT Search in Calgary since 1997. He works best with selective job seekers—those who excel at what they do and enjoy their current jobs. Since they don’t have time to look for themselves, he helps them find their dream jobs. From a client perspective, he helps organizations find the talent that will propel their business. John is involved in several of Calgary’s technical user groups and has held board roles in non-profit groups. He is a single dad of four boys who try to beat him at every physical activity from hiking to rugby.

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