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Identify Risks Tools and Techniques on the PMP Certification Exam

The main techniques you will use on the PMP Certification Exam are to analyze, compare, and contrast the documentation to identify risks. If you see any inconsistencies, record that as a risk.

For example, if your Assumption Log states that you will have an independent third-party vendor perform product testing but your budget doesn’t account for the associated costs, you have inconsistencies among your project documents. This will cause you either to overrun your budget, or perhaps to not have the quality review by a third party that you need to ensure an unbiased assessment of the product.

If the plans and documents that you review are incomplete or of poor quality, that’s also a risk.

Gather information

Risk identification is everyone’s job. Some easy ways to identify risks include holding a brainstorming session with your project stakeholders. You can also conduct individual and group interviews. A more formal method of gathering information is using the Delphi technique.

The Delphi technique

The Delphi technique can be used to identify risks.

Delphi technique. An information-gathering technique used as a way to reach a consensus of experts on a subject. Experts on the subject participate in this technique anonymously. A facilitator uses a questionnaire to solicit ideas about the important project points related to the subject. The responses are summarized and re-circulated to the experts for further comment. Consensus may be reached in a few rounds of this process.

The Delphi technique helps reduce bias in the data and keeps any one person from having undue influence on the outcome.

For identifying risks, follow these steps:

  1. Describe the project or the aspect of the project you want to identify risks for.

  2. Select a panel of experts, who should remain anonymous throughout the process.

  3. Send out background information on the project along with a questionnaire to each expert participant.

  4. The facilitator compiles information returned from the experts, filtering out irrelevant content and content that can lead to loss of anonymity.

  5. The facilitator sends out the compiled and cleaned responses to the questionnaire for the experts to comment on.

    They can comment on individual observations or on the observations of the group as a whole.

    As a result of the comment process, people may want to modify their input.

  6. Several iterations of the analysis, response, and discussion take place until consensus is reached or until there is no more movement on the outcome.

The Delphi technique is useful because the anonymity encourages more honest and creative feedback. Studies have found that groups of individual experts that come to consensus have a strong forecasting ability.

Root cause analysis and diagramming techniques

Another information-gathering technique is root cause analysis, which seeks to find the underlying source of a problem and then identify preventive actions. A root cause analysis can include diagramming techniques.

Root cause analysis. An analytical technique used to determine the basic underlying reason that causes a variance or a defect or a risk. A root cause may underlie more than one variance, defect, or risk.

Some of the more common diagramming techniques include

  • Cause and effect diagrams (also known as fishbone or Ishikawa diagrams)

  • Process flow charts or system diagrams

  • Influence diagrams that show relationships among variables

Many of the diagramming and analysis techniques are similar to techniques you see in quality management. For quality, you’re looking at how to keep defects out of your product and project. This is closely related to risk management, which looks at what could go wrong and how to prevent it.

Risk identification analysis

Various types of analysis are helpful in risk identification:

  • Checklist analysis: This type uses a risk checklist. The problem with this approach is that after people complete the checklist, they might infer that they’re done with risk identification. A checklist should be only a starting point, not an ending point.

  • Assumptions analysis: This type reviews the documented assumptions for accuracy, stability, consistency, and completeness.

  • SWOT analysis: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis comprises

    • Internal organizational analysis to identify internal strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder the organization

    • External environment analysis to identify opportunities and threats in the market or among competitors

Internal or external experts can complete the preceding techniques. Some experts have information on the specific technology being used, others have experience in similar projects, and still others are familiar with the market.

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