Is it a Risk or an Issue?

5 steps to risk management

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That is a question that comes up on every PRINCE2 course that I have ever taught (and I’ve taught a few). "What is the difference between a risk and issue" delegates will ask. Well the simple answer to that is uncertainty and certainty. A risk is something we have identified that could happen and if it did occur would have an impact on the projects objectives. Whereas an issue is something that was unforeseen but has happened that we now need to manage.

How PRINCE2 manages Risks and Issues

As they are different PRINCE2 has two different procedures to help you manage risks and issues. You would find these procedures documented in the Risk and Change Themes in the PRINCE2 manual.  So let’s take a look:-

Risk Management 

PRINCE2 provides you with a 5 step risk management procedure. During the Initiation Stage PRINCE2 states that you should prepare a Risk Management Strategy that would contain your risk management procedure. This should cover how you will carry put the 5 steps that PRINCE2 recommends. These 5 steps are:

  1.  Identify – First of all you need to identify the specific objectives of the project that would be at risk then identify all the threats and opportunities to the project.
  2. Assess – You then need to assess the probability and impact of the risk and also think about the proximity of the risk. This allows you to see how serious the risk would be to the project if it occurred.
  3. Plan – You then need to think about your response to the risk. Is there any way you could avoid, reduce, transfer, share, accept a threat to the project or is there a fallback plan you could put in place. For an opportunity could you exploit, enhance, share or reject it.
  4. Implement – Quite simply then carry out your planned response. What PRINCE2 also recommends is to assign each risk a risk owner and actionee.
  5. Communicate – This step should be carried out continually throughout the procedure. Communication is vital so you need to ensure you keep people updated on the risks in the project.
 

So that’s the risk management procedure. Let’s take a look at the issue and change control procedure.  

Issue and Change Management PRINCE2 provides you with a 5 step issue and change control procedure. During the Initiation Stage PRINCE2 states that you should prepare a Configuration Management Strategy that would contain your issue and change control procedure. This should cover how you will carry put the 5 steps that PRINCE2 recommends. These 5 steps are:

1)    Capture – The issue needs to be captured. You then need to decide how you are going to manage the issue – formally or informally. If it is going to be managed formally an entry into the issue register should be made and an issue report created.

2)    Examine – Carry out an impact analysis. Look at the impact to the projects objectives of benefits, costs, timescales, quality, scope and risk.

3)    Propose – Look at different options to how you could manage the issue. You should always look for more than one option for how to handle it.

4)    Decide – Choose the best option for managing the issue.

5)    Implement – Carry out the chosen option. So we can see from the above that risks and issues are different but the good news is PRINCE2 gives you the tools to manage both.