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What Everybody Ought to Know About Risk Owners

Sometimes you just need someone to own it – own the risk, that is. Certainly it is a project manager’s responsibility to avoid, manage, and mitigate project risk. But they are only one person. As a manager of risk, one can always exercise the right to delegate as necessity dictates. Harry Hall, in his blog PM South, describes the finer points of this endeavor.

What is a Risk Owner?

First you have to define the risk owner. The risk owner is someone who is willing to keep an eye on specific risks, ready and armed with the appropriate risk response if the need arises. They will be charged with defining and analyzing particular risks using both quantitative and qualitative means.

What must He or She Do?

You’ll need a person who is intimate with the particular brand of risk in question. Ideally, they’ll have experience with risk management and are known for being responsive to risk. Of course, they must also be willing to monitor the risk. Think of each risk as a troll lurking in a cave. If and when that troll emerges, the risk owner should be at their post, ready to do battle in the name of project viability.

How to Select the Risk Owner

During the Planning Process, project managers work with stakeholders to identify risks. As risks are identified, you may wish to ask who might serve as the risk owner. If it’s not obvious, ask for potential candidates.

At the latest, a risk owner should be identified at the writing of the risk response plan. Remember that only a BIG risk is worthy of a risk owner and assessment plan – we’re talking trolls here, not little goblins. To rope in potential candidates, it may be necessary to explain the significance of the project and why it must be defended from said risk. If they are hesitant, help them to identify why their unique skills are important for owning the corresponding risk. 

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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