Why risk management is more than updating a spreadsheet

Posted by Team Sharktower on March 16th, 2023

We know that risk management can be a tedious and complex process, but what if we told you it could be fun?

We had already started writing this article when we spotted a post on the Association of Project Management (APM) blog titled ‘Risk Management is fun’.

Well, ‘fun’ can be subjective, we suppose. And each to their own. But headline aside, this is the paragraph that really caught our eye:

“To bring risk management to life we don’t need more complicated spreadsheets. We don’t need more bells and whistles. We need a way of visualising risks in a more meaningful and engaging way.”

So while we may not agree with the writers’ idea of fun, we absolutely agree that risk management is unnecessarily complex, and that’s often why it doesn’t work. To be understood by everyone; it must be accessible, it has to be owned, and it should definitely be visual.

For the most part, organisations track project risk in a spreadsheet or other document; which is updated weekly or monthly and distributed via email to the project team. Aside from obvious issues like version control, it means that risks are disconnected from the projects themselves, and are forgotten until the next review meeting.

Risk management should never be a separate activity. To be effective, it has to be carried out proactively as part of day-to-day project delivery. It’s a core feature of Sharktower, but the principles of simple, accessible risk management can be applied to your team even if they don’t use Sharktower.

Here are eight steps to help you manage risk in a more visible, connected way.


1. Identify risks early and throughout the entire project lifecycle

Managing risk is a crucial aspect of any project, and identifying potential risks early on is essential to prevent any adverse impact on the project’s success. Risk identification is an ongoing process that should be carried out consistently.

To ensure that risks are identified and addressed promptly, monitoring and reviewing risks should be performed continuously. Additionally, it is crucial to track and document risk mitigation efforts to keep the project on track and within budget.

By capturing and addressing risks, project success rates increase while reducing the impact of potential risks. Risk management can also enhance stakeholder confidence in project management and increase transparency in project progress


2. Capture enough information to describe the risk

Capturing enough information about each identified risk is crucial to understand its potential impact on the project and developing effective mitigation strategies. It is recommended to describe the risk in a sentence or two, highlighting the potential impact and the actions you will take to mitigate it.

To ensure that risks are well-documented, it is also important to include the risk impact date, the risk owner, and the impact itself. By using a high/medium/low scale for the likelihood and impact of the risk, you can prioritise risks and estimate the risk value as an actual time or cost.

Using a change delivery platform can allow teams to directly link risks to the part of the project they will impact. This can help teams and stakeholders easily identify risks, enabling more efficient and effective risk management throughout the project lifecycle.



3. Track mitigating actions

Tracking mitigating actions is super important! It’s easy to forget to follow up on risks when you’re caught up in the day-to-day project work. So, when you see a potential risk and agree on a mitigation plan, make sure to create an action item in your project plan. This way, everyone knows what they need to do and can hold each other accountable for getting it done.

Think of risk mitigation actions as any other task or work item on your project plan, and assign them to the right team member. This keeps everyone on track and provides clear visibility on how you’re going to tackle the risk.

Don’t forget to regularly check the progress of each action and update the task status. This helps you see how well the risk mitigation plan is progressing and whether any further action is required.


4. Capture issues

When a predicted risk becomes a reality, it is classified as an issue. It is also possible for issues to arise that were not previously identified as risks. In either case, capturing and communicating the issue in a timely manner is critical to ensuring that the appropriate actions are taken.

To manage issues effectively, it is important to describe the issue, including the due date, owner, impact, and value. This information helps ensure that everyone is aware of the issue and what needs to be done to address it.

In Sharktower, issues are directly linked to the relevant project and the associated risk. This provides a full audit trail of what was discussed, the tasks that were assigned to mitigate the risk, and any associated issues that arose. By capturing issues in Sharktower, you can ensure that they are tracked and addressed efficiently, reducing the potential impact on the project.

Remember, managing issues is just as important as managing risks. By tracking both risks and issues, you can proactively identify and address potential problems, ensuring the successful completion of your project.


5. Use a Kanban to sort and prioritise risks

Using a Kanban board is a great way to sort and prioritise risks in a visual format. It allows the entire team to access and update the board, even if they are working remotely. This eliminates the need for constant check-ins or waiting for progress reports, making it easier to stay on top of risks and mitigating actions.

By recording mitigating actions as tasks, the whole team can easily see overdue risks or associated actions. This makes it easier to prioritise and address risks that require immediate attention, reducing the potential impact on the project.


With Sharktower you can filter the Kanban to view all risks and issues on one place


6. Use a daily stand-up to keep risks and issues at the forefront of the project

Daily stand-up meetings are a great way to keep risks and issues at the forefront of the project. Stand-up meetings are a fast yet structured way to get a good sense of what’s happening with the team, coordinate work, and remove any blockers. Risk management is a team responsibility, so it’s essential to include risks and issues in these meetings.

Including risks and issues in daily stand-ups ensures that everyone is aware of the risks and their associated mitigating actions. It also maintains accountability for specific actions, which helps to ensure that the risks are addressed in a timely and effective manner.

At Sharktower, we’ve been using stand-ups across the whole team since day one. We’ve found that it’s a great way to keep everyone aligned and informed, which has helped us to deliver successful projects.

To gain more insight into enhancing project team meetings, take a look at our blog post “7 ways to improve project team meetings” We offer a wealth of tips and best practices that can assist you in running more effective and productive meetings.


7. Report on risks and issues

Risk management can be complicated, particularly for large and complex transformation programmes. In many companies, senior stakeholders are unlikely to log into a tool to view a project status report, so they’ll need the project manager to summarise the status and highest risks and issues; which often means they have to be exported.

Make sure all high impact risks are included in the report and encourage a discussion of the top-impacting risks at steering committee meetings so that executives get a chance to provide input and direction.


Sharktower’s risk matrix report allows you to view risks at portfolio or project level


Using a risk report ensures risks and issues are fully traceable, transparent and always linked to impacted deliverables. Allowing easy monitoring of required actions or decisions to resolve, in one place alongside all project work.


8. When the demand on your teams to support complex change gets too much, call in the experts

When your team is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of managing complex changes, it’s time to call in the experts – like the assurance team from our parent company, Proteus. Their consultants specialise in change assurance that’s based on data from 35,000 projects, giving your teams impartial, predictive insights that enable you to identify and address issues early and effectively.

From diagnosing the health of your current change program to establishing change assurance capabilities, this data-driven change assurance approach can help you achieve your project goals and minimise risk.


Watch a 3-minute demo

In this bite-sized demo, Sharktower’s Implementation Lead Neil Greenhorn shows how Sharktower makes managing risk simpler.



Let’s talk

Don’t let risks and issues derail your projects. If you’re a project manager looking to gain greater control over your project’s risk management, get in touch with us today to learn more about how Sharktower can help you achieve your goals.