GEOG 871
Geospatial Technology Project Management

Strategies to Respond to Risk


Strategies to Respond to Risk

The PMI PMBOK discusses approaches to project risk management and describes four main types of risk response strategies. With the exception of "risk acceptance" these strategies involve actions to eliminate or reduce the negative impacts of risk events and threats. The four strategies are

  1. Avoidance: adjusting a project plan (tasks, timing, resources, etc.) to protect objectives from negative impacts.
  2. Transference: transferring the consequences or responsibility of a risk to a third party. Transference does not eliminate a risk, it only shifts responsibility. The most common strategy for risk transference is through well-designed contracts for certain elements of the work.
  3. Mitigation: reduction in the probability and/or consequences of an adverse risk event to an acceptable level. Usually includes project controls for identifying risk events early in a project and taking formal action before impacts are great.
  4. Acceptance: the project manager and team understands the risk event or threat, but chooses not to make changes to the project plan or resources to respond to the risk.

Table 8-2 gives some examples of risk response strategies which are appropriate for different types of GIS projects. As in the case of risk identification, a project manager can define specific risk response actions in as detailed a manner as needed to support project management.

Table 8-2: Examples of GIS Project Risk Response Actions
Avoidance Strategies (Prepare plan and project controls to avoid or reduce impact) Transference Strategies (Shift risk and responsibility to other party) Mitigation Strategies (Reduce probability or impact by identifying risk event early and taking action)
  • Identify and position potential alternative funding sources.
  • Have signed charter and firm commitment of resources by project participants.
  • Use flexible personnel staffing options not dependent on permanent positions (e.g., temp positions).
  • Cross-train team members to have complementary technical skills.
  • Get engaged, senior management "Champion" to help resolve resource or organization problems.
  • Practice sound communication and meeting practices to clearly delegate work and responsibilities.
  • Track task and action item completion and follow-up early when milestones not met.
  • Use well-defined, formal deliverable review and user acceptance procedures to avoid out-of-scope demands.
  • Research legal and policy factors and prepare formal positions to prevent barriers and conflicts.
  • Have sound procedures and tools for system administration to prevent problems (security breaches, data losses).
  • Use industry standards and proven methodologies to ensure deliverable quality and to guide procurements.
  • Provide sound technical training and orientation for project team and users.
  • Have clear contracts for critical project services--with terms defining deliverables, timing, and performance requirements (e.g., database development).
  • Have firm written agreements with any outside organization for commitment of resources and personnel.
  • Use private contract for services for key project team positions (contract staff).
  • Have a contract change-order process in place and use it to make necessary changes to contracted services/deliverables.
  • Use a contracted service to provide computer hardware maintenance/replacement.
  • Use contracted, cloud-based services for server, storage, and other system resources.
  • Use enterprise software licensing vehicles to increase the flexibility of software access.
  • Document procedures for resolving contractor performance problems--including formal mediation and penalties.
  • Have good monitoring processes on project team status and performance.
  • Initiate action to access alternative funding sources.
  • Appeal to senior management if internal stakeholder commitments are not being met. Invoke terms of project charter or formal participation agreements as appropriate.
  • Re-assign or provide additional training to improve productivity.
  • Exercise established personnel actions (disciplinary action, termination) for major employee problems.
  • Respond to stakeholder requests for out-of-scope services or deliverables by communicating time and cost impacts on projects. Make formal budget and schedule adjustments if necessary.
  • Monitor organizational and political changes and take steps to give project awareness to new management.
  • Have sound contract management and monitoring with contractual remedies for poor performance.
  • Employ user satisfaction surveys to assess user concerns or problems.
  • Initiate alternative approach for weather impact on field/aerial data collection.
  • Put in place robust system back-up and disaster recovery procedures.
  • Put in place procedures to monitor technical performance (against plan and metrics).