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Schedule Risk Management – why you need it

One of the joys of our job is that we get to work with lots of different organisations and project professionals. However, we frequently hear from clients that they don’t do any schedule risk management for their projects and programmes. But crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t the wisest strategy. What if a schedule risk happens, causing your project to be delayed and potentially hiking up the costs?

What is Schedule Risk?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), risk management is one of the ten knowledge areas in which a project manager must be competent. Project risk is defined by the PMI as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives.” Schedule risk is where a project schedule might be affected because the project takes longer than expected.

All projects have some schedule risks

When a problem occurs, it’s not a good enough excuse if the project team shrug their shoulders and say it was going so well. By that stage it’s too late. All projects will have some schedule risks, so schedule risk management should not be an optional choice.

It’s not too late, however, to hold a schedule risk management review while you’re working on a project. Even better, do so at the beginning. If you identify things that could go wrong, you can avoid or reduce the risk. You’re doing yourself and the project team a massive favour by pre-empting any problems before they have a chance to occur. Here are some tips to help you:

1. Use existing data to help you plan

Schedule risk management is not about using your imagination but using the data you already have and unlocking its benefit. Look at the tasks from previous projects and identify the top activities that didn’t achieve their original planned durations. It’s a simple thing to do using modern software, where you can filter vast amounts of quantitative data.

2. Identify what’s causing duration increases

The next stage is to review the “causes” of the duration increases. These are the schedule risks that will potentially affect future projects. Score each schedule risk for probability and impact. A scale of 1 to 5 is very common, where 1 is low and 5 is high. Then it’s simple maths. Multiple these two numbers together to reach a risk score for each risk.

3. Prioritise the risks

How soon could each schedule risk happen? Is it in the “short”, “medium” or “long” term? Prioritise the risks according to immediacy. Those with the highest risk scores and closest proximity should be reviewed first.

4. Mitigation

There are 5 formal responses to risks:

  • Avoid
  • Transfer
  • Mitigate
  • Accept
  • Contingency

The key response for schedule risk management is mitigation. What are the practical steps you can take to reduce the impact and/or probability of each schedule risk affecting the current project? Identify the mitigation actions with the team, set owners and deadlines, just like any other project task.

5. Identify your ‘alarm’ points

If you currently don’t do any schedule risk management, then use the word ‘alarm’. What alarms do you have with delivering the project within the given timescale? Talk in these terms to the project team, identify the top 10 and agree the actions you can take to mitigate them.

Ask yourself how important it is to your project end date on time and what the impact will be if you don’t.

Save time and money

As you can see, by spending time on schedule risk management today, you will save time and money in the future when problems arise. While it might create more work for you in the short-term (the main reason project managers avoid doing it), the long-term benefits are far outweighed. You will know the risks and have a prioritised plan, so you know what to do to mitigate risks should a problem occur.

If you would like ProCon Partners help in identifying schedule risks or putting a management plan in place, please contact us or call 0117 975 8670 to arrange a free, no obligation call to discuss how we can help you.

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