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Appendix 1: Survey of Key Issues in Project Risk Management


Project risk management is a difficult task. First, complexity is brought about by uncertainty: we cannot accurately predict the future since this requires us to predict future opportunities and potential problems. Even our best attempts are not uniform, as various perspectives will exist. These surface when risks are identified and especially during risk analysis. Risk may be very clear to some but not to others and hence consensus is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, the process can be time consuming and its value and benefits are not always clear.

Research Study

The purpose of the research was to develop a list of project risk issues and make it available to project managers so that they could identify the most important issues from the list. To cover risks within the various activities of project management, reference to PMBOK® was made. According to PMBOK® (Project Management Institute 2008), project risk management can be defined as '[t]he systematic process of identifying, analyzing, and responding to project risk'. It is executed by completing the following steps: recognise the risk, investigate the risk, seek to deal with the risk, and keep track of the risk. They in turn are linked in PMBOK® with knowledge areas, as shown in Figure A 1.1. PMBOK® also indicates the sequence in which a project risk is managed, namely Risk Management Planning → Risk Identification → Qualitative/Quantitative Risk Analysis → Risk Response Planning → Risk Monitoring and Control.

Outline of project risk management

Figure A1.1 Outline of project risk management

The research material was developed in the form of 29 project risk issues that covered these activities from a review of the project risk management literature. Each risk issue was named and described, randomised and included in a questionnaire. The descriptions of the randomised 29 issues are shown in Table A1.2 at the end of this appendix.

Research participants were requested to rank each of the 29 risk issues according to their importance for the next three to five years. They were asked to consider how each issue may require special attention in the foreseeable future, which may be due to the increasing importance of the issue to the success of a project, not understanding the nature of the issue due to its complexity, continued difficulty in managing the issue, or changes expected in the nature of the issue. It was thought that, for the research to be useful, a forward-looking approach should be taken since, by gaining insight into risk issues that will confront them, project managers would be able to prepare themselves to effectively manage the key issues identified by the research.

First, a pilot study was conducted to reduce the 29 issues that had been identified to 10, to reach a greater consensus on the most important ones. This involved two groups: postgraduate students enrolled in the unit Project Risk Management, part of the Master of Project Management course at the author's university, and members of the AIPM. In the first group, 11 participants, mostly part-time students, completed a hard-copy questionnaire, while the second group participated in an online survey promoted and hosted by the Knowledge and Research Council of AIPM on its website. While 20 attempts were made to complete the online survey, only six completed the full questionnaire. Data from the two studies were combined to produce a ranking of the 29 issues.

Experiences gained from the pilot study provided the basis for designing the main study. It was clear from the pilot study that participants had found it difficult to rank 29 issues, as indicated by only six of the 20 online attempts being completed. Furthermore, research principles recommend that when using a forced ranking approach, the maximum number of issues should be 10. Following the suggestion of the AIPM, the researcher joined and presented the 10-issue survey to an online group of about 2,000 AIPM members using a LinkedIn forum. This enabled the researcher to encourage online discussions about the survey, thereby achieving greater participation and qualitative feedback on the risk issues presented.

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