Understanding the World of Project Management – The Risk Manager

risk

Understanding the World of Project Management – The Risk Manager

One of the key skills in the world of project management is being able to anticipate, mitigate and manage risks, which is where the role of a Risk Manager comes into play. In this month’s blog instalment, we explore the role of the Risk Manager, and see how they help keep projects on track, by anticipating the undesirable.

What do they do?

As the title may imply, a Risk Manager is responsible for managing the risks associated with a particular project. A major part of their role is to anticipate, identify and work to mitigate risks within a project; the challenge comes in that not all risks are known or quantifiable. The Risk Manager therefore has to consider all eventualities, however remote they may seem, and use these to formulate a risk management plan – a document detailing what steps can be taken should one of these risks become a reality. To help focus the plan and decide on top priorities, they often use certain algorithms to ascertain the most significant risks, in terms of likelihood and impact on the project. It’s important to note that risk management is a continuous process, and while the majority of preparation may occur prior to a project starting, risks need to be monitored and assessed throughout, as likelihood, impact and relevance of risks can change drastically during the lifecycle of a project. Risk Managers are responsible for reporting on the risk status of a project and making recommendations where appropriate.

Where do they work?

All projects carry risks, making risk management a key part of any project plan. However risk management is something all project managers are exposed to, and should be comfortable with, so a dedicated Risk Manager may not be necessary in all instances. In particular, they may not be required for small projects, where there are a relatively limited number of risks. They therefore work primarily on large and complex projects, in sectors such as engineering, aerospace, construction and finance.

What do they need to know?

An ability to undertake a holistic view of a project is highly important, as risks can arise from anywhere within a project, and technical and analytical skills are vital in order to assess and evaluate relevant risks. Many Risk Managers move into the role as a result of exposure when working as project managers or planners, and as with many roles in PM, there are no formal qualifications needed. However to be able to work as a specialist, undertaking specific risk related training is of benefit.

How do they fit into the PMO?

The Risk Manager will need to work closely with many other teams within the PMO in order to understand and assess any potential risks related to that area. They will also need to work with key suppliers, the wider business and even the customer on occasion, to understand where any risks may lie. As mentioned above, a Risk Manager is not always a distinct role within a PMO, but will be when working on complex projects.

Profile

Name

Norman Gaddas

Job Title

Risk and Planning Manager

Company

I currently run my own business Rhobyn Management Ltd.

How long have you worked there?

One year

Describe a typical day

As a risk manger my days can vary considerably, but one of my overarching responsibilities is to manage and maintain the risk management plan, accounting for who does what, what do we need to be aware of and what actions do we need to take? The aim is to be able to manage and review risks before they cause any disruption. Any risks that are identified are added to a risk register, and I have to compile monthly reports and offer updates to the wider business and the customer we’re working with. Another key part of my role is attending the risk working group every 4-6 weeks, where we discuss how to better manage risks and improve procedures to allow us to do this. I’ve also been involved with a lot of ad-hoc things to help improve our processes, such as generating a guide to link Primavera and MSP with the local governance in how to use them. To help this further I often deliver presentations about how to use the tools. I also created a one-page document briefly explaining what risk management is, so that everyone in the project team understands the role and how it fits in. As risk manager I help support the bid process, helping to reduce risk and reduce costs where possible, so that if the bid is won there are fewer chances of issues down the line, and of course I help in writing risk management plans throughout the lifecycle of a project.

How did you get into it?

I started my career in planning and project management, and over time got exposure to the risk side of the discipline. Around 10 years ago I did a risk management course which was really the start of my involvement in risk; while I continued to work as a planner I began to use my risk management knowledge in the role and eventually introduced a new risk tool to the team. I taught myself how to use the tool and from there just got more and more involved in the risk side of things as I was one of the only people who could use it. When the opportunity to become involved in a risk working group arose I took it, and eventually became the risk manager for a large project, as well as the champion for the tool we were using. This led to me being asked to head up the risk management team which I really enjoyed.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I really enjoy the discussion around risk management, being able to talk through concerns, and sharing knowledge. I love helping to see people understand the benefits of risk management, and persuading people that it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

Most important skills

I think one of the most important skills is being able to understand the process of risk management, and being able and willing to dig deeper than what’s presented on the surface. Knowing the tools is useful but it shouldn’t be the main focus; using the tool is secondary to being able to follow a risk management process effectively. Another key part is being able to influence people and help them recognise the benefits of what you’re trying to do. This requires good communication to convey this message and also tell people what you need them to do. You need to work with people and use the information they present – don’t dismiss the ideas of others, because they could be vital to your plan. Finally you need to be open to different ways of looking at things and be willing to learn.

Norman’s top skills

  • Understand the process
  • Good communication
  • Ability to dig deeper
  • Influencing skills
  • An open mind
  • Team work