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Planning a Project – Contingency Planning (#24 in the Hut Introduction to Project Management)
By JISC infoNet

Since projects involve uncertainty and risk it is likely that you will need to develop contingency plans for key areas of risk. Basically this involves identifying risk scenarios which, should they actually occur, would have a significant impact on the ability of the institution to carry out its business and considering what options are available to you.

An example could be a new administrative system failing to go live on time. The contingency plan may be to carry on with the old system in which case you would have to think about issues such as:

  • Is this feasible?
  • What essential maintenance would be required?
  • Do we have the necessary skills?
  • When would be the next opportunity to switch systems?
  • How will we transfer the data?
  • What additional costs will we incur?
  • How will this impact our clients?

Other alternatives may be to carry out the process manually or to contract it out to someone else in which case many of the same questions would arise.

The number of scenarios likely to require a full contingency plan depends on the project. You are likely to need to invoke a contingency plan should you fail to achieve major milestones but it is unlikely there will be more than a few such milestones in any project. Contingency planning should not be confused with the normal re-planning necessary to react to minor variances in the developing project plan.

Contingency plans are your “Plan B”. They are there so that when a crisis occurs you can transfer almost instantaneously to an alternative plan, instead of having to start working it out when, let’s be honest, you will be feeling under pressure and less able to think coolly and calmly.

JISC infoNet aims to be the UK’s leading advisory service for managers in the post-compulsory education sector promoting the effective strategic planning, implementation and management of information and learning technology.

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