Identify project risks

project risk managment

As a Salesforce Admin/Consultant/Developer, you will often be involved in projects or initiatives.  In this post we will take a look at identifying and managing project risks.  Why?  Because in a project, risks can cause major problems and lead to roadblocks that you simply can’t get around. 

What is an acceptable project risk?
What is an acceptable project risk?

In a previous post we talked about why setting a roadmap is important.  It allows you to engage with your users and stakeholders while involving them in defining the Salesforce strategy.  (You have setup a roadmap now, haven’t you?  :-))

But once you have planned what and when things should be delivered, now we need to focus on identifying potential project risks.  How do you judge what is an acceptable project risk?  And how can you manage and then mitigate these risks?

What is a project risk?

Risk is an everyday occurrence in our world and it is subjective from person to person.  In an extreme example, some people would take any perceived risk and jump out of a plane (hopefully with a parachute), while others wouldn’t even dream of it!  The point is risk is all around us and we make decisions everyday, even if subconsciously, to say ‘I am prepared to take that risk’.

Project risks are the same, things that you or the team can see that may potentially cause issues later on.  Now I have used two key terms in that sentence.  Risks and issues… What is the difference?

In its simplest form a project risk is something that may happen during the project.  And if it does it occur, it may have an adverse effect on a project’s delivery.  That can be either what is being delivered, the timelines for delivery, or in extreme cases can block delivering anything.  Risks’s are potential/future focused.  For example, a risk to a project could be that after the project has finished, end users don’t use what was delivered to them.

An issue on the flip side is generally something that is current or happening right now.  An example of an issue would be unexpected sick leave.  This could disrupt timelines and what was planned today can’t happen.

So how do you capture project risks & issues?

project risks vs reward
Even though there will be risks, sometimes the reward is worth it.

Now imagine you were on ship trying to reach your arrival port, you want to arrive on time but there are a number of risks you need to consider.  What route to take?  Are there any storms/icebergs in your way?  Or would you just set sail and hope for the best?

By identifying any risks and issues, you can then come up with a plan to mitigate it.  Allowing you to avoid extra the time and costs hitting an iceberg would cause

It isn’t an exact science but the key is to take time, stop and think about it.  Think about what you are trying to achieve.  Risks are related to what you are trying to deliver.  What could derail the project?  Is it related to resources (access to certain people at a specific time in the project)?  Are you at risk of other systems / integrations causing issues?

You can keep these simply enough in an Excel/Google Sheet that the project team has access to. Everything you brainstormed,  enter down as a new line.  The key is to do it, start it early on in the project life cycle and to continue doing it throughout the project.

Once you know what the risks are, you can then take measures to address them.   This allows you to plot a course around any risks and hopefully avoid them becoming issues.  As an example, need specific involvement from a subject-matter expert at a certain phase?  Plan for it and book them in.

Get creative

Draw a Treasure Map - great way to identify project risks
Draw a Treasure Map – great way to identify project risks

When defining risks (either good or bad) you could hold a session with your key stakeholders.  Have a project kick off and discuss the objectives of the project and what does project success look like.

For something a little different, get creative.

One session I have run a few times with stakeholders is to split people into smaller groups of three or four people.  Then get people to draw out a treasure map with labels on it.  Draw the risks as circling sharks, a skull island or a ship upon the rocks.  And the treasure is the project being delivered after circumnavigating all the risks.  But the aim is to think about problems creatively, I have even seen a group draw a space ship making a journey through the galaxy…

I find it helps get people out of their comfort zone and shifts their mindset from their normal day to day work.  You can then also ask the groups what are some ideas to mitigate the risks.

After the sessions add the risks to your spreadsheet (if you haven’t got them already).  If your group came up with possible mitigations, also make note of this as you can build on it as you start your project.

Adam Gill

Hi, Adam here! I am a Trailhead Ranger and also 6x certified. I have been working with Salesforce since 2007, across a wide variety of CRM projects and orgs (both greenfield and legacy). I love travelling and fun fact, I had my scuba diving license before my driving license!

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