Risk Prioritization in Project Management

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Your organization is in the process of planning, organizing, and assigning responsibility for rolling out a new information technology (IT) project. Whether you’re planning to develop software, install hardware, upgrade networks, incorporate cloud computinig, or implement business anaytics or data management, you need to focus on risk prioritization in project managment. The question is: How can I do this efficiently?

What is Risk Prioritization?

What is project management in information technology?

Project management in IT focuses on defining the goal or need, planning the steps to meet the goal, executing the plan, monitoring and controling the work to remain with in the budget, and closing out each step.

In short, project management is a bundle of work that often goes unappreciated. If you’re a project manager, you know that working with your project team means communicating effectively and getting buy-in from everyone in the organization.

How starting with risk identification can streamline the process

Getting organizational buy-in means understanding where your project falls within the company’s business objectives. A risk event is defined as a potential event or contidtion that can have a positive or negative effect on the project.

Not all risks are negative. Some risks, such as early project completetion, are good. Software development completed ahead of schedule allows you to increase productivity. Simultaneously, it might impact training needed to use the software appropriately.

Now, the liklihood of newly developed software being completed early is probably low.

That’s where risk comes in. Risk, or liklihood of event multiplied by impact, takes into account events but also incorporates the chances of meeting those conditions.

In IT, identified risks fall into three categories:

Risk in execution

Execution risk focuses on resource availability, stakeholder commitment, and resistance within the organization.

Risk in integration

Integration risk covers the problems that arise when technology or processes don’t play well together and disrupt critical operaltion processes.

Risk of the unknown

Although anything can happen, not everything will. Despite the term “unknown,” many can be identified by looking at other organizations doing similar projects and reviewing what happened to them.

How do you identify potential risks?

Potential risks in IT projects fall into five different categories. Cybersecurity risks not only arise out of the technology’s control environment but also out of users. Therefore, when identifying risks at the outset, you need to incorporate not only the inherent risk in the development but also how it fits into your larger organizational operations.

Control Risks

As an IT project manager, you work to incorporate new technologies that enable business processes. However, these technologies need to be reviewed for potential risks arising out of unknown technologies. For example, untested technologies come with unknown vulnerabilities. To review these risks, you need to understand weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers. Some risks to evaluate include:

  • Web security application
  • Network security
  • Domain Name Server (DNS)
  • IP address
  • Malware/Ransomware

User/Functionality Risks

End-users can lead to additional risks. Functionality needs to meet internal stakeholder needs. As the project develops based user feedback, developers need to update or rework the project to respond to these needs. Some risks to evaluate include:

  • User access/authorization
  • Web security application
  • Adoption rate
  • Training

System architecture risks

Incorporating a new application into your current business processes also creates a new avenue for malicious actors to access your information. Whether it’s applications connecting to one another or applications connecting to your network, you need to think about the probabilities and consequences of adding another connection to your overarching IT landscape. Some risks to evalute include:

  • Vendor security
  • Interdepartmental dependencies
  • Quality assurance
  • Problem resolution
  • System interfaces
  • System input/output
  • Residual information protection
  • Encryption

Performance risks

Any project attempts to enable business processes. However, as a project develops in response to user feedback, it evolves. Therefore, the end result may not meet the original goals leading to unexpected time and cost. Some risks to evaluate include:

  • Past performance history
  •  Security controls
  • Employee training

How to create a Risk Impact Assessment

After creating a list of identified risks, you need to engage in a risk analysis. A primary part of this involves reviewing the probabilities and consequences of the risk events occurring.

Impact of Risk

Risk impact incorporates both qualitative and quantitative reviews. For example, cost increases or liabilities arising out of a data breach can be quantitative. Business operation quality is more qualitative.

Probability of Risk

Some risks may have a high impact but a low probability of occurrence. Again, liklihood can be reviewed both qualitatively and quantitatively. You can create a qualitative scale such as “highly likely” to “highly unlikely” with a variety of steps in between. Then, you can align those to numeric scores that enable a quantitative assessment.

Risk Impact Assessment Chart

Finally, once you’ve determined the risks, their potential impact, and their liklihood of occurrence, you gather all this information together. Whether you’re using qualitative or quantitave assessment processes, this risk assessment chart provides insight into risks that you want to mitigate, transfer, accept, or refuse.

What is a risk management process?

Using the Risk Impact Assessment, you chose to accept or mitigate certain risks. Now, you need to prioritize risks based on this decision. A high risk event may include a data breach or loss of critical operations. For example, if a new technology crashes upon rollout, then your organization will suffer a business continuity issue. However, not incorporating the technology based on this might lead to profit loss. Therefore, you’re willing to accept the risk but still need to manage it.

Within the high risk and medium risk categories, prioritization of the risks allows you to focus on creating a plan to protect your business throughout the project’s development.

Eastblishing a most-to-least critical importance ranking incorporates reviewing not just high risk compared to medium risk, but also looking at how you generated that value. For example, a high impact risk may have a medium liklihood of occurrence, but the combined score located it within the high risk category. A business interruption risk fits this definition. If the impact of the interruption is high but the liklihood is moderate, then the risk may have just squeaked over into the high risk category.

When prioritizing risks, you should first focus on high imapct and high liklihood risks. With data breaches increasing annually in number and sophistication, for example, this risk likely falls into the high priority category. Coming up with a way to lessen the impact of these risks or lessen the liklihood of these risk are the fundamental basis of the risk management plan.

How ZenGRC enables a project manager to create a successful IT project team

As a project manager, you need a way to enable communication with your project team. Traditional tools like shared calendars for task assignment and emails for discussions take time that could be better spent monitoring the project.

Being an IT project manager requires an efficient workflow tool to coordinate communication and task management across internal stakeholders.

ZenGRC allows you to prioritize tasks so that everyone knows what to do and when to do it so that you can maintain records – up until the time you need to dispose of them.

With our workflow tagging, you can assign tasks to the individuals in your organization responsible for the activities involved in records management.

Finally, with our audit trail capabilities, you can document remediation activities to prove that you maintained data confidentiality, integrity, and availability as required by law.

For more information about how ZenGRC can streamline your GRC process, contact us for a demo today.