The case for Explicit Risk Management in agile projects

Risk is a fuzzy term — it can mean different things to different people.

If you search for “Agile Risk Management” in Google, though you may get lot of links there are very few links which will be helpful for you. I am sure, if you take any of the agile projects that are being executed, you will not see anything related to risk management defined explicitly.

Why is that?
Agile was created keeping a single team in mind. Agile is focused on producing a working software every iteration by automating any repetitive tasks. This leads to frequent customer deliveries. Transparency and Visibility are the core values. Risk Management is implicit in agile teams and happens continuously (or should happen) within duration of the development. That’s why in most of the agile projects you do not get to see any form of explicit risk management.

Is this the case today? If you are from a Services company, i am sure its not the case. Even, if you are from a captive center, its not the case. We do (or say that), we practice agile in distributed environment, where multiple teams are involved. In some places there are even multiple companies involved. In a smaller environment, where there is only one team, Stakeholders are from single company and the project size is small its Okay not to have an explicit risk management. If you have a large team, a project running for more than 3 months, you will be in a much better place by doing explicit risk management.

Wait a second. Isn’t this what we did with traditional software development (waterfall). It was just a list and someone maintained it. I am a Project Manager/Development Manager who is extremely busy. What benefits will i get by doing this?

Well, in one way, its more or less the same thing. You need a list. But earlier, it was created/maintained/managed by the Project Manager. Activities happened mostly during the initial stages of the Project. It was never revisited.

In an agile environment, you revisit this, take necessary actions every iteration. This may improve your success rate.

Apart from that, today the Delivery teams might be from different companies. Though your product owner might be aware of the Risks, but your Product Owner is not the only stakeholder. As a Project Manager, its your responsibility to keep all the stakeholders up to date with the Risks, Owner of the Risk item, the plan to address, steps that been taken to address (Ignore, Accept or Mitigate). In case if your project doesn’t succeed, this may be another document which might help you CYA and CY Team’s A.

In an agile environment, Risk Management as a process – no one person owns the risk management. The whole team is responsible for risk management with a clear owner defined to address each risk item.

Okay, Sounds like a good story. If this is so important, why do we not see this happening?

Most of the Projects will have common risks. The challenge is to identify Risks which are project specific. If you know how to identify risks, i am sure we will find a way to mitigate them. Its a lot of effort and makes you thinking. Probably that’s on of the reason why you don’t see this happening.

I am planning to write couple of more posts in this. Will try to address the following as part of the next posts.

  • Risks Vs Uncertainty, Known Vs Unknown
  • Risk Management Process
  • How to Identify Risks?
  • Risk Response Planning, Tracking (Risk Burn down Chart, Risk Profile)

In the past, whenever i tried writing a series of posts, it never happened. Hope this time i will have some more energy to complete what i started in this post.

Happy Learning!!!!


1 thought on “The case for Explicit Risk Management in agile projects

  1. Okay, Sounds like a good story. If this is so important, why do we not see this happening?
    — Ha ha ha. It will rarely happen, it requires Project Damagers to work 🙂

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