The importance of a Risk Tracking Template

There is risk associated with every project regardless of the size and complexity. The seasoned project manager would understand that while risk is inevitable, the ability to forecast, prepare a strategy and subsequently correct any wrongs, is part of what planning for a project is all about.

It takes more than just conducting due diligence. Detailed preparation is required to deal with that risk. It is crucial to have a mechanism in place to track risk throughout a project’s lifecycle. To not identify a risk in the first instance can be a problem, but not to track it once known can become catastrophic.

Systematic tracking and evaluation of actions should be taken to mitigate risk against established metrics. This occurs throughout the acquisition process while developing other options. To assist in tracking a risk, the use of a template would be beneficial. As it provides places to collate the needed data to follow that risk and see how actions to remedy it are working.

There are many available and free Excel templates which can be downloaded. Each would assist with the creation of vital documents in a project manager’s arsenal. It should contain everything needed in the one place. A project is only as good as the tools on hand to complete it successfully, that is on time and within your allotted budget. Templates similar to those available in the project management companion website which are all free for the project management community.

The use of a risk tracking register will assist in the identification and outlining when the impact is likely to occur. It should also provide the ability to tag the person who identified it. There’s also space for determining how likely the risk will in fact impact the project, estimate that risk and then better identify it if and when it occurs.

It will also assist with providing a space to fully describe the risk and how it might impact the project, as well as assigning an owner to that risk. This is the person who is responsible for monitoring the risk and implementing action to mitigate it. That is an owner to action resolution which will avoid any ambiguity.

Once a risk is resolved, then there is also a mechanism to close it out. Once the risk is not impacting the project and has been resolved, the tracking is no longer required and resources can be allocated to other tasks. Here is where you can also describe the reason for closing the risk, which is a great way to communicate with your team and stakeholders.

How to Use a Risk Tracking Template

It’s important to prepare for risk, and when it happens, have a plan in place to resolve it. There must be a method in place to track that risk. The first step is access to a free template, next is how it should be used.

The steps on how the template should be used are as follows, although not an arduous task, a thorough understanding will assist in achieving the end goal.  

Description of Risk and Impact

Begin by listing each risk with an identification (ID) number, normally located in the first column. Next would be the column for the description where the potential risk is stated. Describe the risk; be thorough, by outlining the essential concern. Specify the various impacts such a risk might have on the project, and be sure to include as much detail as possible. Understanding the impact of the risk to the project is paramount, without this, a strategy can’t be developed, if and when it arises.

Risk response, the Priority and owner

Completing the risk response column, focus on this part, the description should be a short and decisive response to the risk. Following is the section to prioritize, where the decision is made on the level of the risk. This is high, medium or low, by marking one of either here. This would then make it easier to filter the spreadsheet to determine the number of each risk. Once known then a priority on how to deal with it can be made.

Assign an owner to each risk, otherwise it will get overlooked and has the potential to become a major problem. The notes column is used to write down thoughts that don’t fit into any of the previous categories. Having a place to document ideas is useful; otherwise they may fall between the cracks.

It is important to use a risk tracking template when delivering a project regardless of the size and complexity. It should be understood that while risk is inevitable, the ability to forecast, prepare a strategy and subsequently correct any wrongs, is part of what planning for a project is all about. This is achieved with the use of a risk tracking template which provides identification, description, rating, owner and mitigation of a risk. Remember, not using one will make any sized risk into a major problem if not identified.

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