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What Is a Risk Register?

Jim B.
Jim B.

A risk register is a document prepared by a project manager at the beginning of a business project which attempts to characterize all of the risks associated with the project. Although it may come in many forms, the document is usually set up in table form on a computer spread sheet. Each specific risk is characterized by its probability of occurring, the impact it would have on the project in a worst-case scenario, and the steps being taken to eliminate it. In this way, an effective risk register identifies all potential problems with a specific project as a way to make sure that they are eradicated.

When a project manager is assigned a specific task by either an outside customer or by a permanent employer, he or she must begin the process of figuring out how to get the project done. A big part of this process is assessing risk and attempting to mitigate it in any way possible. One way that this is accomplished is through the use of a risk register, which documents all of the negative occurrences that can crop up during a project and the ways that those situations must be handled.

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Using a computerized spreadsheet allows a project manager to simplify the process of constructing a risk register. This method allows for a lot of information to be contained in a relatively small package. It is also a good way for the project manager to get his clients to understand the risks involved. They need only consult the document, look up each specific risk, and follow across the page to see all of the details attached to it.

There are certain pieces of information that should be included in every risk register. First among these is the likelihood that some specified event with a negative impact on the project will occur. It can be measured in terms of the percentage chance that it will actually happen, which is based on a rough estimation by the project manager. In conjunction with this information, the project manager should also include the negative impact that a specific risk would cause if it were realized. Doing this can help the manager assign resources based on the most damaging potential events.

The final vital piece of information contained in a risk register is the process being undertaken to eliminate each specific risk. This information usually also refers to an "owner", who is the person assigned with the task of taking care of the problem. If and when the risk is removed, the register should be adjusted to account for this outcome.

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