Risk Assessment and Common Cause Variation

Some software projects are more difficult than others. But what do I mean by difficult and how can we tell if a project is going to be difficult before we’ve even started it?

Difficult in this context means the more difficult a project is, the less predictable the outcome is. There are a number of common causes of variation (risk) that affect the predictability of success and thus make it difficult.

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Common causes of variation are captured in my free online interactive Risk Profiling tool. The profiler provides you with a relative risk rating. Risk profiling each of the projects in your portfolio gives you an additional dimension of decision making data. The great thing is, in most cases you can ask these questions about a project even before it’s started.

The tool assesses the following common causes of variation:

  • About the problem you are trying to solve*
  • Where are the team members located
  • Staff contention
  • Technical environments contention
  • Code base contention
  • 3rd parties
  • Team size
  • Cycle time
  • Management regime
  • Team tech
  • Team domain
  • Team maturity

* special thanks and attribution to Liz Keogh for the answer categories to question 1

Feedback on the tool is greatly appreciated.

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