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Program risk management

Program Risk Management and Projects Risk identification

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Program Risk Management and Projects Risk identification

The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® Certified Project Manager program.

This chapter explains the concept of Program Risk Management in the context of BVOP.

  1. What is Program Risk Management?
  2. Who manages the program risk?
  3. Risk identification of all projects
  4. Risks prioritization
  5. Potential project risk influencing other projects
  6. Risk avoidance planning
  7. Risk owner assignment

What is Program Risk Management?

Program Risk Management covers all activities to identify (risk identification), mitigate (risk mitigation), and avoid (risk avoidance) negative situations that could adversely affect the work of teams.

Every project, program, and business initiative carries risks. When we start working on a product, project, or service, random contingencies can ruin our plans. Negative incidents and events often lead to delays in work and loss of resources.

It is therefore strongly advisable at the beginning of each program to identify its possible risks and then to monitor the work and all negative events in the development process. When a problem arises, it should be avoided or mitigated to reduce losses.

Who manages the program risk?

Program managers, with the help of project managers, typically assume this function and have the responsibility to protect the program from risky situations. Since BVOP offers the idea that program management and project management roles not be differentiated within an organization, we can say that the entire project or program management office manages the program risk. All departments and teams can participate by consulting the program or project manager and share their recommendations and concerns about risk situations.

About this chapter

This chapter is an excerpt from the training materials for BVOP™ management certification.

Program risk management may include:

  • Risk identification of all projects
  • Risks prioritization
  • Potential project risk influencing other projects
  • Risk avoidance planning
  • Risk owner assignment

Risk identification of all projects

High-level or detailed risk identification for all projects in the program may require the prediction of possible risk occurrence during and after project realization.

The risk may be detailed with the participation of all project management roles if there are multiple roles assigned to the program.

The risk can be divided into separate themes (risk items) and added to a common project risk list for the entire program.

Risk identification for all projects can be carried out in advance, and if multiple teams work on multiple projects simultaneously.

If teams work on projects consecutively, detailed risk identification can also be carried out in sequence. Still, initial and high-level risk factors (items) need to be identified in the early stages.

Project risk management details are included in the Business Value-Oriented Project Management (BVOPM) section.

Risks prioritization

Risk items may be prioritized, so that the most likely to occur scenarios (items) are placed on top of the program risk list. They require more observation, discussions, prevention planning, and efforts during the realization of the project.

Potential project risk influencing other projects

The BVOP states that if a risk may have an impact on other projects, it needs special attention. Such cases need to be identified, emphasized, and prioritized in the risk list (the collection of all risk items).

Participation of all teams (and their management roles) that work on projects potentially affected by the same risk is required for risk avoidance.

Risk avoidance planning

Every risk needs an avoidance plan. The avoidance plan for each risk item is defined by the management roles assigned to the project with the participation of team members who have direct relevance to the risk item.

Risk owner assignment

Each risk item needs an assigned owner that is usually an individual or multiple individuals working on the project or specific tasks of the project. They have the needed competence and knowledge about the subject related to the risk.

Risk owners observe early risk symptoms of their assigned risk items, avoid occurrences, collaborate with project management roles, other key roles, and stakeholders in order to avoid or minimize the risk impact.

Multiple risk owners are assigned when a risk influences a number of projects.

The Business Value-Oriented Project Management section introduces detailed Project risk management principles and practices that may be applied on a program level as well.

The following issues related to chapter "Program risk management" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of September 26, 2020, 7:00 am

ID Issue Time Category
0 What is Program Risk Management? 60 sec PGM, PM
1 Who manages the program risk? 60 sec PGM, PM
2 Risk identification of all projects 60 sec PGM, PM
3 Risk avoidance planning 60 sec PGM, PM
4 Potential project risk influencing other projects 60 sec PGM, PM
5 Risks prioritization 60 sec PGM, PM
6 Risk owner assignment 60 sec PGM, PM

Comments from the BVOP™ community

Fabron Ambroise

A common mistake of many beginners and not so beginners in project management is to confuse program risk with project risk.

In this guide, everything is very well explained, but I still want to point out the differences. I suppose many of those who are now in the craft will benefit from re-detailing.

Project risk usually involves all risks that relate to one project that one or several teams work on. Results from the development of this single project are expected.

Program risk, in turn, includes the possible risks that concern all projects that an organization is planning or developing. This naturally means taking into account risks associated with many projects, many different teams. Sometimes there are many related external stakeholders. The more projects, teams, resources, and external factors are linked to the organization's program, the greater the chances of risk exist.

Program risk is supposed to be defined only at high-level. No precise details can be provided at this stage and scale of work anyway.

Deborah Lopez

A high-risk project can harm the whole program. In addition to time and financial deviation, risk can also cause failure throughout the program. An unsuccessfully developed project, if it is strongly linked to the others, can lead to failure in all implementations.

If there is a high probability of failure of a high-risk project, careful consideration for starting the whole program may be a factor in avoiding major critical losses.

Comments of our guests
  1. Donovan Thomas
    It is true that program risk is not a project risk. This is risk management at the organization level. You are responsible for huge budgets, teams, customers, and outsiders. The only way to deal with this heavy responsibility is to involve as many participants as possible in your projects. All project managers are required to participate. It is clear.
  2. J. Collino
    Hello everyone, BVOP is really something very interesting and new. As far as I understand, this topic here is not a classic project management risk management. It is on a program level. Is that correct? Do you plan to publish ideas about the interactions between the project manager and the program manager? Thanks in advance
  3. BVOP™
    Dear J. Collino, Thank you for your comment and question. You understand correctly that the topic posted here concerns program-level risk. For the relationship between project management and program management roles, we may recommend that you look through the entire BVOP ™ Ultimate Guide and pay special attention to the Offices specifics section. Kind regards
  4. Kristen Frye
    Perhaps it would be very easy and clear to define the risk of an entire program as a combination of the risk of all its projects.
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