Risk registers play an important part in identifying and managing risk, both for projects and other areas such as critical engineering and facilities management.
However, unless they are kept up-to-date and provide timely, accurate information, they are a waste of time and effort.
The risk register should be set according to the distinct stages of the project, with critical paths identified in each stage. The risks associated with each stage will be identified and flagged according to their potential impact and probability of occurrence. The risk register can then allow the project team to know where they are and what Is jeopardising the project risk.
In Riskenomics, we create a Gantt chart model, which becomes the project plan, and the meta data behind the model form the risk register, with each item status set to Red, Amber or Green. These status flags give an instant visible picture to the project team of where there are issues, and also where there are potential future areas of concern, allowing them to take action to mitigate the risk.
Certain tasks will need to be carried out at specific times to mitigate risk and keep the project on track. So, if generator power might be need while rewiring a floor as part of a refurbishment project, the project team will need to check the generator has been serviced and checked in advance.
And a project will have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of individual tasks and dependencies. Manual alerts on this scale is totally impractical.
A risk register that is automated and sends timely alerts to the right person, with an escalation procedure, is going to be far more effective in helping the team identify and mitigate risk as the project progresses.
Apart from automation, one of the most important reasons for having an intelligent risk register is that you can analyse the data at any point, especially if you have set up management reports, and have a detailed audit trail of who has made changes and who has accepted specific risk levels, a function very difficult to achieve in an Excel spread sheet with multiple users.
You may also want to make it visible globally, potentially across partners, as well as link it into other management systems, to gain a more comprehensive view and greater clarity on what actions are required and the potential impact of not mitigating the risk.
Use the right tools
Many risk registers are created in Excel or similar programmes. Whilst Excel has many great usages, it is pretty limited in what it can do and, in my opinion, is not suited for a risk register.
These are the top level functions to look for is a risk management tool:
- Automation for scheduling tasks and alerts
- Version control, especially with multiple users
- Audit trails
- The ability to link multiple projects – with each other and with the live environment – to manager interdependencies
- Management information
I did hear of an instance of Excel being used as a risk database, with the associated library uploaded into it. It worked for a while, but quickly got so large that it kept crashing.
Risk registers can do so much to make a project run more smoothly and mitigate risk – all that is required is robust and detailed set up, combined with the right tools for the job.