Handling Risk Prioritization in IT Projects

Ken Lynch
Ken Lynch
May 5 · 5 min read

IT projects allow businesses to install new hardware, software, and networks that improve the efficiency of daily operations. As a project manager preparing to carry out specific tasks, make sure you don’t forget about risk management.

Risks such as cybersecurity threats pose many different dangers to business data, and you may be particularly vulnerable when carrying out an IT project. For example, when installing new software or integrating cloud computing, you may need to shift large amounts of data from one platform to another. Hackers may target your data during such periods- and cause your project to be derailed or delayed.

What potential risks does your project face?

The first step is to identify the risks that your business faces. Recognizing these risks will enable you to develop a strategy that mitigates any potential threats you may encounter.

By definition, a risk is any threat that may harm your business or compromise your data. Risks will vary based on your specific industry, the size of your business, and the nature of your project. During an IT project, you may face any of the following risks:

1. Execution Risks

Execution risks are types of risks that occur at the beginning of your project. These risks may affect the project from launching successfully or even launching at all.

Execution risks may be caused by internal resistance from employees and management, lack of adequate resources or lack of commitment by personnel who are critical to project success.

2. Integration Risks

New IT projects typically require seamless integration with current infrastructure. For example, when implementing cloud computing, infrastructure from the cloud needs to be compatible with your systems. Incompatible technologies may cause a disruption in daily processes or delays in the execution of critical tasks.

3. Performance Risks

Performance risks are linked to the overall outcomes of your IT project. If the desired goals are not achieved or are underachieved, you may end up spending more resources and time on the project.

4. Other Unknown Risks

Unknown risks are those that you may not have anticipated during risk management. It helps to give yourself some leeway for managing unknown risks so that your project isn’t caught off-guard.

What impact does risk have on your project?

Identifying the risks that your project faces is only the first step. You should also proceed to determine what impact each type of risk has on your business. A risk impact analysis involves these three steps.

1. Risk Probability Assessment

A risk probability assessment means determining how likely each risk is to occur. Some risks have a high probability, while others are far less likely to happen. Risk assessment involves following both qualitative and quantitative approaches. You can quantitatively assess qualitative risks by using a scale. Start by categorizing risks as “highly likely” or “highly unlikely” and aligning them along a numerical scale. This approach will help you determine which risks to prioritize, based on a quantitative scale.

Make sure that all cybersecurity risks are categorized as being “highly likely.” This is because such risks occur more frequently than most businesses think and prioritizing a cybersecurity plan will go a long way towards protecting business data.

2. Risk Impact Assessment

The next step is to determine what consequences your business will face if a risk were to occur. These consequences have varying levels of impact on your project, and they can be categorized both quantitatively and qualitatively.

For example, data breaches may directly result in financial loss and an increase in operational costs (quantitative). Qualitative consequences include reputation damage, business downtime, and other similar impacts.

3. Developing A Risk Impact Chart

The goal of identifying, prioritizing, and quantifying risks is to develop a plan for risk management. A risk impact chart allows you to gather all the information you collected so you can determine how each type of risk will be approached. In other words, such a chart acts as a guide (or a quick reference) for determining how each type of risk will be accepted, transferred, refused, or mitigated.

When quantifying risks, you should also consider how likely the risk is to occur vs. the impact that a potential threat will have on your business. For example, a disruption in business processes may have a medium likelihood of occurrence but a high impact. Therefore, such a risk should be ranked higher overall in your risk impact chart.

Implementing A Plan For Risk Management

Risk management is where you will implement actual steps towards handling the risks that your project faces. Your risk management approach will depend on the specific decisions you make with regards to all identified threats. For example, you may choose to accept, refuse, transfer, or mitigate the risks that you assessed during previous steps. Regardless of the selected approach, remember that your overall aim is to minimize the probability of such risks occurring during your project. Different types of risk may be suited for different methods based on their impact and likelihood of occurrence.

During your IT project, you can manage potential risks in many ways. In the case of cybersecurity risks, here are three specific ways through which you can manage incoming threats and protect your IT project from being disrupted.

1. Carry Out Regular Vulnerability Assessments

Vulnerability assessments allow you to scan your network and detect any potential weak points within the system. The aim is to identify these weak spots and patch them up before they can be exploited.

2. Taking A Proactive Approach To Risk Detection

You can also proactively identify any potential risks by continuously monitoring the IT environment. In this way, you’ll be able to catch risks early and prevent them from evolving into full-scale attacks.

3. Responding Quickly To Incidences

Another effective approach is to maintain agile systems that can respond to any threats promptly. The overall aim is to detect and repel potential threats in as short a time as possible.

Launching new IT projects is an excellent way of remaining up to date with current technologies and increasing business efficiency. However, each project will come with its own unique set of risks.

A risk management plan allows you to identify, quantify, assess, and respond to such risks effectively. In this way, your project is more likely to proceed smoothly, on time, and on budget.


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Ken Lynch

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Ken Lynch

An enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated by what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. — ReciprocityLabs.com



The Must-Read Publication for Aspiring Developers & DevOps Enthusiasts