assumptions must be made for the project to move
forward, “have a contingency plan for the risk that
your assumptions are wrong,” Mr. Greenwood says.
Such a plan starts by asking what are other possible
outcomes if assumptions are wrong, he says. How
would problems impact scope, timeline and cost?
“Consider the e;ect on the client’s business and
reputation, and the delivery organization’s relation-
ships and reputation.”
Project managers also can shine a spotlight on
hidden risks by putting more focus on tracking
and validating assumptions, says Jeanette Bordelon,
PMP, manager, program risk management advisory
services group, EY, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
For example, Ms. Bordelon worked with a client
that needed a new enterprise resource planning
(ERP) system, but didn’t have an expert on its team
to handle the implementation. ;e lack of expertise
was identi;ed as a risk, so the client hired an outside
vendor to run the implementation and mitigate the
risk. But that’s where assumptions got in the way.
“;ey assumed that the vendor would have and
use all the expertise and necessary level of maturity
needed to deliver a project of this scope,” she says.
;ey were wrong.
It turned out that the vendor didn’t follow many
of the expected processes and procedures for an
ERP implementation—and the project quickly went
south. “Six months into the project, the vendor had
not yet created an integrated master schedule,” Ms.
entire contingency budget Mr. Sanggar’s team had
set aside to pay for unknown risks, but the customer
was satis;ed with the solution—and the project was
;e next time he encounters a similar scenario in
a di;erent country, Mr. Sanggar says he will add a
layer to evaluating potential risks: “Invest in travel
to the local country for a face-to-face interview with
the customer to identify risk. Local customers who
have spent many years in the country would be able
to share insights into potential risks.”
It pays for project managers to be skeptical, because
it raises the team’s risk awareness at every turn.
While it can be di;cult to switch
gears from the optimistic sales focus
required to land a new client, the team
must shift into critical and analytical
mode to poke holes in its own project
plan and thereby avoid encountering unknown risks, says John Greenwood, PMP, risk management lead,
CSC, Southampton, England.
“One of the biggest risks you can
have is an overly optimistic project
team,” he says.
Actively questioning all of the
plan’s assumptions can help a project team understand everything that’s
needed to complete the required scope. If some
can have is
an overly optimistic
—John Greenwood, PMP, CSC,
Having a diverse
group in a
session ensures that
issues the core team
—Jeanette Bordelon, PMP