Frequently asked questions

Below are our answers to some frequently asked questions:

What is risk management?

In terms of project planning and execution, risk management is the act of considering risk in the project plan and throughout its execution, as well as in the benefits it promises. Risk is considered in many dimensions: schedule and cost, as well as others such as performance, safety, environment and reputation.

For more information, see our page describing risk management in more detail.

Why should we do it?

Risk management is worth doing on any project, and the larger, more complex, and risky the project, the more value risk management can provide.

Risk assessment and analysis help the project team to understand its own view of the risk to a project, and to communicate this to its stakeholders. It allows the project to understand the consequence of specific risks on schedule and cost, in order to set reasonable expectations. It allows the project to track its management of all types of risk.

For more information, see our page describing the benefits of risk management, and our service in particular.

What does it involve?

Carrying out a risk assessment will require some initial meetings with certain key members of the project team to establish the risk management plan, followed by some wider workshops and interviews with the project team to establish the risk assessment. The project team will also be asked to validate the outputs of the risk assessment, to ensure they can defend it.

Read more about the individual steps involved in a project risk assessment.

What are the outputs of the risk assessment process?

The risk assessment process results in a full report which details all the assumptions used in the risk assessment (base schedule and estimate, the full risk assessments and quantification, the model logic, and exclusions) as well as the full results and interpretations (overall risk to project schedule and cost, recommended risk mitigations, and recommendations to management).

The risk model and results are broken down so that the individual areas of risk can be identified, understood and communicated. The report shows how the results are arrived at, so that the project team can understand and defend the risk assessment as a reasonable representation of the reality of the project as they see it.

For more information about the outputs of the risk assessment process, read about the risk management report as well as the kinds of interpretations and recommendations it can make

What kind of project can we apply it to?

We have applied our risk assessment process successfully on a wide variety of projects, internationally, in most industries. For small projects we can propose a high-level rapid risk assessment for very little effort and cost - for major projects we can establish a suitable approach, and carry out a full risk assessment to an appropriate level of detail, including ongoing reviews as required.

We bring experience of all sizes of projects in between, and will work with you and your project team to make the risk assessment appropriate and valuable.

You can read about some of the past projects we have carried out risk assessments for, and how the team's felt about how it went.

Do we need a risk register before we start?

No, but if you have one we will use it as a starting point. We will use your existing format of risk register, so that the project team recognise the format during our risk assessments.

We will also use your base schedule, if you have one - ideally fully logically linked and forward driven. If you don't, and if you do want to carry out a schedule risk analysis (as opposed to just cost), then we will work with you to build a high level schedule for the purposes of the risk assessment.

We will also use the base cost estimate, if you have one - ideally at a fairly high level, which has any contingency classified as such.

You will also need to think about nominating an internal project team member as the risk coordinator for the project, whose role it will be to maintain the risk register, hold regular risk reviews and respond to changes in the risk, and ensure mitigation is carried out and monitored.

Read more about how the risk assessment begins with the creation of the risk management plan.

How long will it take?

The time it takes to carry out a project risk assessment varies widely depending on the project. Large complex projects, with large multidisciplinary teams, might require several days of risk workshops, for example, and several more days of refinement and validation of the risk assessment and report. Availability of project team members can also affect the time it takes to complete the assessment. For a high-level rapid risk assessment, however, covering only a limited scope (such as schedule only, not cost), the process can be carried out in a day or two.

For more information, read more about the service we provide and how long each phase can be expected to take.

How much does it cost?

The cost of using our service to carry out a project schedule and cost risk analysis, and risk management report, varies widely depending on the project. For a fairly rapid schedule analysis at a high level on a small or simple project, for example, the cost can be less than £10k. The cost of the project's own team members should also be allowed for.

Ongoing cost for risk management support, if required, again depends on the particular project.

Please contact us and tell us more about your project so that we can give you a proposal.

What could cause it to take longer or cost more?

Often a project risk assessment needs to be carried out in a tight timescale, and to a constrained budget. In practicing what we preach, some risks to carrying out a project risk assessment are:

  • The project base estimates change - for example due to scope change, or receiving new information from contractors. We can usually react to this by reflecting it in the risk assessment, but it can take extra time and effort to review the risk assessment in light of the changes.
  • Project team members are unable to commit the time to the risk assessment. We are flexible in our risk assessment approach, meaning we can carry out individual interviews as well as group workshops, according to the team members' convenience. We can also reduce the assessment effort by quickly identifying and then focusing attention on the key risk drivers to the project.

For most of the above possible reasons for the risk assessment effort to increase, we can also mitigate them by finding practical ways to reduce the risk assessment in order to allow it to deliver a meaningful result within the time and budget available.

And for small increases that inevitably happen when working with a busy project team or a difficult project, please be assured that we are highly incentivised to deliver a risk assessment that is as complete and valuable as possible, and our proposals allow for reasonable day-to-day contingency to cover this. Please contact us and tell us about your particular project, so that we can make a reasonable and achievable proposal for it.

Why should we use an external consultant?

Many project teams report that they find advantage in using us to carry out their risk assessment, because we can use our relative detachment from the project to keep focus. We can transcend the management and functional structure, to ensure that risk is seen objectively and detailed discussions are taken offline when appropriate, so as to keep the risk assessment exercise on track.

Project teams also appreciate our previous experience in working with many different project teams, and the perspectives and advice we can offer on the best way to approach assessing common types of risk. For example, our work in the offshore industry gives us a wealth of experience in assessing and expressing weather risk, in the most useful way.

What sets you apart from other risk management consultants?

Our service gives your project practical, clear risk analysis that adds value. Your team will understand the risk assessment, its results, and the interpretations the project is going to make.

You get the risk model itself, and the ability to refine and maintain it yourself if you choose. You also get a full report that details all the assumptions used in the risk analysis, the results and how they are calculated, and recommendations in continuing to manage the risk on the project.

Our consultant Simon White has around 20 years' experience in carrying out risk assessments and analyses for projects in a wide variety of industries.

For more information, read about what our customers said about our service on recent projects, and read more about the service we provide.

What does a project risk assessment not cover?

The project risk register should hold all risks that the project team has identified, regardless of the nature of their impact (schedule, cost, safety, environment, etc).

However, the schedule and cost risk analysis does not include risks which do not have schedule and cost impacts, nor risks which the project's schedule and cost estimates would not be expected to cover.

Examples of risks that the schedule and cost risk analysis would exclude (but which would still appear on the project risk register) are:

  • Risk of well blowout - because this is such a low-probability and high impact event, which the project estimate would absolutely assume to not happen.
  • Risk of major corporate policy change, resulting in project cancellation - because the project estimate assumes the project will not be cancelled.
  • Risk of oil price down-turn - because this risk would not impact the project's schedule or cost.

Who is responsible for the risk assessment of our project?

We will carry out the risk assessment, but you, the project team, are responsible for its content. We will ensure that the risk assessment you make does reflect the beliefs you have expressed to us about the project and its risks, and we'll make sure that the model represents the assessment you have made. But ultimately the risk report will be taken as representing the team's own knowledge of their project.

Our project does not have a dedicated risk coordinator - can we still use your services?

We do recommend that the project has its own risk coordinator, who can maintain the risk assessment as the project goes on, and to keep its recommendations and mitigation actions alive. However, some projects are unable to find an internal resource who can have the focus to do this.

In this case, the risk assessment would still provide value to the project at its current point of execution, and would still support the project through an approval gate for example. However there would be a danger that the risk assessment is subsequently forgotten, and its recommendations and mitigation actions (which the risk assessment may be assuming get carried out) do not get acted on.

This is why we recommend the project finds its own internal resource who can prevent this from happening, and who can avoid much of the risk assessment being wasted in the longer term.