Project management: How do "What If?" scenarios work? (full sample)
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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 these scenarios can help project managers and teams minimize disruptions to the project and help it deliver what it needs to.
Areas of expertise
A significant part of project management is dealing with circumstances outside normal business operations. By its very nature, a project makes a number of changes to create new products, deliver new services, tweak business processes, or avoid problems.
Part of the successful management of a project is about dealing with risks, issues, and dependencies, and one of the best ways to do this is through “What If?” scenarios. In this article we'll explore what risks, issues, and dependencies are and how these scenarios can minimize a project’s impact and deliver on time, on budget, and in scope.
Risks, issues, and dependencies
What If? scenarios are focused on 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 these three areas 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 - 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 pre-empt risks, issues, and dependencies that could occur and create What If? scenarios and mitigating actions that can be deployed quickly and effectively.
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 minimize disruptions to the project and help it deliver what it needs to.
Content originally written by Paul Maplesden, a freelance writer, and edited by me.