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Project Management - How Do 'What If' Scenarios Work?
Part of project management involves managing risks, issues and dependencies in an effective way. This can be accomplished through using 'What If?' scenarios. A comprehensive risk and issue management plan that includes 'What If?' scenarios can help project managers and teams to minimize disruptions to the project and help it to deliver what it needs to.
By its very nature, a project makes a number of changes to create new products, deliver new services, tweak business processes or avoid other problems. Good project management means dealing with circumstances outside normal business operations.
Risks, issues and dependencies are a problem for any project, and that's why 'What If?' scenarios are essential. In this article we'll explore what risks, issues and dependencies are and how these scenarios can assist a project in minimizing impact and delivering on time, on budget and on scope. We'll cover:
- What are risks, issues and dependencies?
- Risk, issue and dependency management
- Resolving or mitigating risks, issues and dependencies
- 'What If?' scenarios
What are risks, issues and dependencies?
'What If?' scenarios are focussed on effectively managing and mitigating risks, issues and dependencies.
- Risks - A project risk is something that has not happened yet, but could conceivably happen in the future and have a negative impact on the project.
- Issues - An issue is something that has or is happening and is causing a negative impact on the project.
- Dependencies - A dependency is a relationship between a project and something else that needs to take place for the project to be successful.
Risk, issue and dependency management
Part of managing risks, issues and dependencies is having plans in place to deal with problems if and when they occur. Typically, a risk, issue or dependency management plan will include the following:
- A description of the risk, issue or dependency.
- The thing(s) that would need to happen to trigger the risk, issue or dependency.
- The likelihood of the risk, issue or dependency happening.
- The severity or impact of the risk, issue or dependency on the project.
- Actions that can be taken to minimize or remove the risk, issue or dependency.
Resolving or mitigating risks, issues and dependencies
If there is a negative impact on a project, there are a number of solutions that can be used to remove risks, issues or dependencies, these include:
- Putting a work-around in place
- Fixing the underlying cause
- Changing what the project is going to do
- Remove the risk, issue or dependency
Putting a work-around in place
Creating a work-around so that the situation that caused the risk, issue or dependency is avoided, minimizing the impact on the project. This is normally a temporary solution.
Fixing the underlying cause
Understanding the root cause that created the risk, issue or dependency in the first place and fixing it.
Changing what the project is going to do
If the risk issue or dependency cannot be avoided, the activities, timescale, budget or other parts of the project might be changed.
Remove the risk, issue or dependency
If there is an option to remove the impact, through prioritization, changes or other means, these can also be used.
'What If?' scenarios
A 'What If' scenario is simply predicting what might happen to cause a risk, issue or dependency and having contingency plans in place to deal with it. Good project managers are able to preempt risks, issues and dependencies that could occur and create 'What If' scenarios and mitigating actions that can be deployed quickly and effectively.
Read more of our helpful, expert guides to successfully managing a project:
Introduction to project management - The main concepts of project management
How project management can help your small business - How project management can help your small business launch new products, services and processes
The main objectives of project management - The things project management should accomplish
The project management plan - One of the most vital aspects of getting a project right
What is a project baseline? - How to baseline a project
Resource scheduling and planning - Making sure the right people do the right things at the right time
‘What If?’ scenarios - A critical part of risk and issue management
Project portfolio management - For when just managing one project isn’t enough
Communications management for projects - Getting your project messages read and acted on
The right project management software - Essential to running a project well
Get project management experience - Want to break into the field? Here are some tips and tricks
Project management training - How to find the right training course for you
Project management consulting - Learn about consulting for project management
Choosing the right specialist - Make sure you get your money’s worth
Have you used risk management or 'What If' scenarios in your projects?
Managing risks, issues and dependencies, especially using 'What If?' scenarios is a crucial part of effective project management. A comprehensive risk and issue management plan can help project managers and teams to minimize disruptions to the project and help it to deliver what it needs to.