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Top 5

Managing Risk for the Digital Revolution

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by Chris VanHoeck

Top-5-100x81Companies on the way to digital transformation must deal with constant change. This is true especially during technology implementation projects, whether implementing sophisticated mobile apps, advanced analytics or the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s like running on a path that twists and turns in front of you. To make a technology implementation project successful – and to get the most out of an investment – project managers must be constantly on the lookout for the risks inherent in the changing landscape.

Organizations often underestimate the work involved in managing risk for digital implementation projects, thinking it will slow them down. But, in reality, the opposite is true. A digital project manager who can anticipate risks before they arise and adapt as necessary will radically speed deployment. 

Here are the Top 5 ways to successfully manage risk in a technology implementation project:

  1. Look for the positive. Risk management is most commonly thought of as a way to prepare for what can go wrong, but looking ahead to prepare for future events is a powerful way to identify what can go right. In fact, careful risk management can increase project rewards. For example, many retailers initially began converting web applications to fit mobile formats to meet basic competitive demands, but they quickly found that mobile apps were a great tool for presenting customers specific offers based on buying patterns. Identifying this opportunity allowed them to create new opportunities to grow revenue.
  2. Rely on the experts. Whether a company is migrating workloads to the cloud for the first time or introducing automation, seeing potential opportunities and pitfalls is far more likely when subject matter experts are involved. Look in house first for the appropriate experts, but don’t be afraid to look outside as well. It can pay dividends. Technology suppliers and consultants who help select and evaluate those suppliers can add a valuable perspective when examining the possible future impact of new technologies. Companies that hope to market to customers via mobile devices, for example, often lack knowledge of state and federal restrictions on text messaging and must seek expertise in privacy law.
  3. Write it down. A multitude of risks lurk out there for every technology project. A technology could take off faster than anticipated or a new supplier could go belly up. Keeping track of the risks in an organized fashion is the best way to avoid negative implications and be ready to take advantage of the opportunities. Document the risk when recognized, noting the probability of impact, a plan to reduce the probability of the negative and increase the probability of the positive, and a step-by-step response if it does occur.
  4. Make it visible. The risks of a new technology implementation project often are shielded from organizational leadership with the thinking that – if known – they will jeopardize continued support and funding. But successfully managing a technology implementation demands the opposite. Communicating risks and a well-crafted mitigation plan will help educate leaders about potential future issues without inciting unnecessary fear and prepare leadership for the possibility of providing support if the risk does come to be.
  5. Keep on doing it. Too often, risk management is viewed as a one-time event executed early in the project lifecycle when risks are cataloged and then set aside as the implementation schedule becomes the primary focus. Instead, know that technology and business conditions are forever changing. Continue to scan the horizon for potential obstacles and opportunities, involve experts as needed and carefully document and communicate risks for the entire life of the project.

Even the most by-the-book technology implementation projects involve risk. As disruption and the constant change it represents increasingly define today’s business environment, project managers must become masters at identifying and responding to potential risks. We cannot control the future, but we can prepare for it.

ISG helps organizations manage complex and ever-changing digital projects. Contact meto discuss how we can help you manage risk and make the most of your technology investments.

About the author

Chris brings to bear expertise in a wide variety of technologies and business systems while introducing the benefits of a Project Management Office (PMO) to ISG’s clients. He has more than 30 years of experience consulting, managing programs and projects, and leading systems development efforts. He is able to quickly assess client’s needs, advise the best approach for success, suggest tools to use and implement those recommendations. His work has spanned manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering, and finance applications.