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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Introduction to Risk and Opportunity Management

Risk is always present; its presence is a fact of nature. Accepting that risk is always present is the first step toward managing risks to reduce the effects of risks. Managing risk is the responsibility of the development program leaders but the mechanics are often delegated to systems engineering. Even if systems engineers are not responsible for maintaining the processes and tools it is essential that they understand the importance of risk management and the methods used for effective risk management. Inattention to risk management is the second highest cause of projects not meeting expectations. Just like other systems engineering processes it takes experience and discipline to conduct effective risk management.
Development programs also have opportunities for improving cost, schedule or system performance. It is important to identify and manage opportunities as well as risks in order to have an effective program. This chapter defines risk, outlines a risk management process that can be used for risk and opportunity management and provides examples of templates and processes useful for risk and opportunity management.
10.1 Risk Definition
Risk is the consequence of things happening that negatively impact the performance of a system development project. Risks arise from events that occur inside and outside the development organization. The consequence of an event can impact the quality, cost or schedule of a system development project, or some combination of these effects. There is risk in any project but there are usually more risks associated with projects that are new to the development organization’s experience. Risks are always present in the development of new products or services or changes to the processes, people, materials or equipment used in the development of products or services. Risks to developing new products and services arise from unplanned changes to the internal environment or changes in the external environment, such as the economy, costs of materials, labor market, customer preferences or actions by a competitor, a regulating body or a government agency. An effective development team faces up to risks and manages risks so that the negative impacts are minimized.

There is an operational definition of risk that aids in managing risk. This definition is:
Risk R is The Probability p of an Undesirable Event Occurring; Multiplied by The Consequence of the Event Occurrence measured in arbitrary units C or dollars $; R=p x C or R=p x $.
This definition allows risks to be quantified and ranked in relative importance so that the development team knows which risks to address first, i.e. the risks with the highest values of R. If the event consequence is measured in dollars then it’s easier to evaluate how much budget is reasonable to assign to eliminate or reduce the consequence of the risk.
The second definition measures risk in units of dollars. Thus impacts to the quality of a product or service or to the schedule of delivering the product or service are converted to costs. Impacts to quality are converted to dollar costs via estimated warranty costs, cost of the anticipated loss of customers or loss of revenue due to anticipated levels of discounting prices. Schedule delays are converted to dollar costs by estimating the extra costs of labor during the delays and/or the loss of revenue due to lost sales caused by the schedule delays.
Opportunities can also be defined operationally by the product of the probability an opportunity for improvement can be realized and the consequence if the opportunity is realized, measured either in arbitrary units or dollars. In the rest of this chapter when risk is addressed the reader should remember that it can be viewed as “risk or opportunity”.
The key to good risk management is to address the highest risk first. There are three reasons to address the highest risk first. First is that mitigating a high risk can result in changes to plans, designs, approaches or other major elements in a project. The earlier these changes are implemented the lower the cost of the overall project because money and people resources are not wasted on work that has to be redone later. The second reason is that some projects may fail due to the impossibility of mitigating an inherent risk. The earlier this is determined the fewer resources are spent on the failed project thus preserving resource for other activities. The third reason is that any project is continually competing for resources with other activities. A project that has mitigated its biggest risks has a better chance of competing for continued resource allocation than activities that still have high risks.
10.2 Managing Risk

Managing risk means carrying out a systematic process for identifying, measuring and mitigating risks. Managing risk is accomplished by taking actions before risks occur rather than reacting to occurrences of undesirable events. The DoD SEF defines four parts to risk management and the NASA SE Handbook defines five top level parts and a seven block flow chart for risk management. It is helpful to decompose these into 11 steps. The 11 steps in effective risk management are:
1.      Listing the most important requirements that the project must meet to satisfy its customer(s). These are called Cardinal Requirements and are identified in requirements analysis or via Quality Function Deployment.
2.      Identifying every risk to a project that might occur that would have significant consequence to meeting each of the Cardinal Requirements
3.      Estimating the probability of occurrence of each risk and its consequences in terms of arbitrary units or dollars
4.      Ranking the risks by the magnitude of the product of the probability and consequence (i.e. by the definition of risk given above)
5.      Identifying proactive actions that can lower the probability of occurrence and/or the cost of occurrence of the top five or ten risks
6.      Selecting among the identified actions for those that are cost effective
7.      Assigning resources (funds and people) to the selected actions and integrating the mitigation plans into the project budget and schedule
8.      Managing the selected action until its associated risk is mitigated
9.      Identifying any new risks resulting from mitigation activities
10.  Replace mitigated risks with lower ranking or new risks as each is mitigated
11.  Conduct regular (weekly or biweekly) risk management reviews to:
·         Status risk mitigation actions
·         Brainstorm for new risks
·         Review that mitigated risks stay mitigated
In identifying risks it is important to involve as many people that are related to the activity as possible. This means people from senior management, the development organization, other participating organizations and supporting organizations. Senior managers see risks that engineers do not and engineers see risks that managers don’t recognize. It is helpful to use a list of potential sources of risk in order to guide people’s thinking to be comprehensive. A list might look like that shown in Figure 10-1.

Figure 10-1 An example template for helping identify possible sources of risk to the customer’s cardinal requirements.
It also helps ensure completeness of understanding risks if each risk is classified as a technical, cost or schedule risk or a combination of these categories.


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