A Risk Log is an essential Project Management Tool

A vital tool in any project is the risk log or risk register. One of the earliest tasks to undertake in a project is to gather and assess risks. Usually, the process of risk management begins before the project starts. Risks are evaluated and captured as part of the process of producing a project business case.

There is more to risk management that merely conducting a one-off risk discovery exercise, though. These risk workshops are only the beginning of the Risk Management process. Once captured, risks are recorded in a repository known as a risk log or risk register, where a project or PMO team tracks and manages them.

Risk Mitigation

I have seen projects where a project manager or business analyst will labor to create a Project Risk Log, and populate it with hundreds of risks that may impact the project. But once the log is filled, it is filed away. The record is only opened again when auditors come to visit and inspect project artifacts. What a wasted opportunity! For a project risk register to be valuable, it needs to include not just a list of risks, but a record of mitigation actions that are being taken. Strategies, or treatments, vary widely but can be grouped into common categories:

  • Avoid: Any risk mitigation strategy that prevents the risk from ever occurring
  • Reduce: Any strategy that reduces either the probability of the risk occurring or the severity of the risk if it does happen.
  • Transfer: Most typically done through an insurance policy, a transfer strategy is where the risk is offset to someone else.
  • Contingency: Liferafts do nothing to reduce the risk of a boat sinking, but they do save lives. Contingency plans are strategies that focus on knowing what to do if the risk becomes a reality.
  • Accept: Less of mitigation, more of a common understanding. Some risks may be too expensive to mitigate. Nevertheless, the decision to accept risk is a strategy in its own right and requires documenting and reviewing constantly.

Risk Reporting

Our free risk log template makes reporting a breeze. No one particularly enjoys reporting, but as we noted in another post the process of project reporting is valuable for report creators and recipients alike. Our report makes it simple to filter on open, significant risks and use this data to update project report templates with the minimum of fuss. We believe that the time you spend looking at risks should be focused on reducing the impact to your project, rather than on how you can get the data out of one format into another!

Our Free Risk Log Template

Our template provides a means of recording the identified risks, the analysis of their severity, and the necessary management actions to be taken.

Our template has the added benefit of including a risk plot, allowing you to see an overview of the project risk profile at a glance, without delving into the detail. This is achieved by plotting the probability of a risk occurring against the impact it will have if it occurs. Risks that have a high chance of happening, and will have a severe impact when they do appear in Red. Those with low probability and severity are green.

Like all of our Excel templates, the sheet is designed to work with Office 365, but the functionality should work fine with everything back to Excel 2007.

The chart is freely available to use, edit and abuse as you wish. All I ask is that if you like it, please share a link to this site via your blog or social media.

Are there any other templates you would like us to add to the site? Let us know in the comments below!

Free Risk Log Template
Free Risk Log Template (Don’t worry, you can change the color scheme!)

Want to learn more about Risk Management?

There is so much more to Risk Management than merely maintaining a risk log. If you want to learn more about project risk management, why not check out our free risk management training course? The risk management training will help you plan for project risk. On the course, we teach you how to identify project risk, and how to analyze risks using both quantitative risk analysis and qualitative risk analysis. We’ll show you proven strategies for risk response planning, and teach you how to mitigate the risks on your projects. Use the button below to jump to our training site and sign up.Start learning Risk Management