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Importance of Risk Analysis in Project Management
By Sam Zaydel

Lately, the focus in project management across industries has been put on Risk and ways of mitigating various risks, both known and unknown. And yet it seems that Risks and issues which arise from some of the known or unknown risks are a direct result of lack of adequate analysis being done, prior to the project moving into the design and build, or development, or engineering, or whatever you call the phase where actual work takes place. Analysis is one of the key pieces which, if not done with diligence and not given enough time will most often lead to problems, which in turn could cause a failure of a project.

A little background on why I believe Risk Management and Analysis should go hand in hand… Risks are something that we commonly have to deal on our projects. Let’s look at a dummy project and establish a scenario. For example, we are deploying a new set of server racks, which requires an additional blade to be added to a nearby network switch for network connectivity of the new servers. It seems the level of Risk there is minimal. The work required seems straight-forward – we purchase necessary hardware, slap the hardware into the switch, configure, and attach the servers. Simple yes, but have we really done enough analysis, and what are the Risks here? Well, first of all, do we know for a fact that our switch has capacity for an additional blade? Do we know if the blade we need has been budgeted for? Do we know if we have resources from the Network team who will install the blade? What about configuration, who will do that? And of course, these are just the most basic things to think about. There are many more Risks involved with something that at first glance seems to be a nobrainer.

Personnel issues are common. Do we know we will have necessary expertise to perform the work, when it is time to do it? Do we need to make sure that our current personnel know how to correctly configure the switch? Are there any prerequisites we have to think about before we add this blade? Is the switched already being maxed out by the amount of data that we are pushing through it?

All of these questions are leading us to better understanding the project and the Risks associated with it.

I always believe that Analysis is nothing more than asking questions. Granted, we have to ask relevant questions, but we also have to be sure that we follow-up to each question, and that we get answers. Not just an answer, but an answer that is complete and helps you the PM to understand impact of the item relating to your question. Never assume that if you had prior experience with something that it will all go the same way now. Things change, processes change, policies and procedures change. Ask questions to which you already know answers, and do it early on, during the Analysis phase and not when you are building. Well analyzed project will go more smoothly, have a higher chance of success, and will do more to mitigate Risk than any Risk plan, no matter how good it may be.

Sam Zaydel is a Technical Project Manager and a consultant to organizations with expertise to streamline and create more service driven and productive IT operations, more in tune with the objectives and operations of the core business. You can learn more about Sam by visiting his LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/samzaydel.

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