Risk Management

Kicking Risk Down the Road Jeopardizes Success

Tony Grout presents a scenario where it is 12:30pm, you have a report to write, you have an international flight at 4:00pm, and it takes an hour to drive to the airport. Employing common sense, you would want to focus on just catching your flight on time first, and then writing the report at your leisure at the gate. Grout says this common sense is often lost in risk management.

The Nonsensical Approach

Right now, product owners tend to prioritize backlog order not according to risk but rather to short-term value. This shift is making people fail to realize that “scoping out” a situation is not an effective means of mitigating risks of “technical novelty,” as Grout calls it. Technical risk must be inserted into the prioritization process in order to rectify the situation.

In order to accomplish this, Grout recommends creating a chart where technical risks are placed on the Y-axis and user stories are placed on the X-axis:

The user stories are true user stories; if they’re delivered a user can do something valuable in their process. I put a cross at the intersection of a risk and user story where it shows that, if we build and appropriately test that user story, it demonstrates that we’ve mitigated the risk. I then look at the user stories with most crosses, balanced with the least effort and the largest value, and prioritize those to the top of the backlog.

This approach assists but does not solve all problems by itself. There is a tradeoff in prioritization between building market credibility and a sustainable solution. Good judgement needs to be used to decide when to choose one over the other. Prioritization, like risks themselves, is all about the context in which it is presented. You can read Grout’s full post here: http://theitriskmanager.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/kicking-risk-down-the-road-jeopardizes-success/

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