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What is a Risk Register in Project Management ?



what is risk register

Have you ever been working on a project and found that something unexpected happened, throwing a wrench into your carefully laid plans? Whether it's a delay in receiving materials, a change in regulatory requirements, or a key team member falling ill, risks can pop up at any time and have a major impact on the success of your project. That's where a risk register comes in.

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What is a Risk Register?

We can define a risk register as a tool used in project management to identify, assess, and prioritize potential risks to a project. By keeping track of potential risks in one central location, project managers can proactively address them and minimize their impact on the project's timeline and budget. In short, a risk register helps project managers stay on top of risks, ensuring they are prepared to handle whatever challenges come their way.

Use of Risk Register

There are several key times when it is especially important to use a risk register in project management. Some of them are as follows.

Planning Stage

A risk register can help project managers identify potential risks early on, allowing them to mitigate or avoid them before they become major issues.

During Project Execution

As a project progresses, new risks may arise. A risk register allows project managers to assess and address these risks as they come up continually.

During Project Review and Evaluation

After a project has been completed, it is important to review and evaluate any risks that occurred and how they were managed. A risk register can help with this process by providing a comprehensive record of all risks and how they were addressed.

Many types of risks can arise during the course of a project. Some common risk scenarios are as follows:

Schedule Delays

Schedule delays are a common risk when a project takes longer to finish than anticipated. These could be due to unforeseen challenges, delays in obtaining relevant approvals, or other issues.

Budget Overruns

Another prevalent danger is going over budget owing to unexpected costs or unforeseen circumstances. Budget overruns might be triggered by factors such as acquiring materials at a higher cost than anticipated or the need to engage additional resources to complete the project.

Scope Creep

It happens when a project goes beyond its planned scope, frequently owing to changes in customer needs or unforeseen challenges that arise during the project. Scope creep can lead to scheduling issues.

Credit Risk

Companies in the retail industry face a variety of external risks, one of which is client credit risk. This risk might have a significant influence on a company's profits. Organizations can limit this risk by conducting a customer credit risk analysis to identify high-risk clients and discontinue extending invoices.

Contract Risk for Investors

When establishing a company overseas, the investors face external risks such as currency fluctuations. To mitigate this risk, investors might enter into contracts in US dollars to secure their interests.

Data Theft

Data theft is a serious risk for businesses because data is generally their most valuable asset. Companies can reduce this risk by implementing controls for receiving communications, such as checking emails for suspicious activity.

Market Risk

Market risk is a common risk that many organizations face, especially real estate sector. Companies can reduce this risk by entering into early and long-term contracts with investors to ensure their future regardless of market conditions.

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What's Included in the Risk Register?

There is no standard list of things that should be included in the risk register. However, we have shared some common components included in most risk register templates. The following is the list of things that are typically included in a risk register template.

Risk Identification

Risk identification is a critical phase in any project's risk management strategy. It entails identifying potential risks impacting the project's timeline, budget, or quality.

When hazards are identified during the planning stage, project managers can take proactive actions to mitigate or eliminate them before they become serious difficulties. There are various approaches for identifying risks, including:


Gather the complete project team for a brainstorming session to discuss potential risks. This can produce a wide range of ideas and allow everyone to provide feedback on potential hazards.

SWOT analysis

Examine the project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to uncover internal and external risks.

Examining project documentation

Examine project plans, contracts, and other documents carefully to detect any dangers that may have been ignored.

Stakeholder interviews

Speak with stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and other third parties to gain their opinions on potential risks.

Risk Description

Following the completion of the risk identification procedure, a concise summary should be included in the risk register. This summary also called the risk description, must include a high-level assessment of the risk, an explanation of why it is a possible issue, and any other pertinent information.

The risk statement should be concise, typically 80 to 100 characters long, and represent the important aspects of the risk and its possible impact clearly and accurately.

The risk description's purpose is to provide a clear and brief summary of the risk that is easy to understand and reference.

Risk Category

The risk category in a risk register categorizes the risk evaluation based on its nature or probable impact. A risk category could be related to operations, budget, schedule, etc. Risk categories can assist project managers in a variety of ways, including:

  • Risk categorization allows project managers to prioritize which risks to handle first, depending on the possible effect on the project. If a risk has a high probability and high impact, it will be more urgent than a low probability and low impact risk.
  • Project managers can uncover trends or patterns that may not be obvious by categorizing risks. For example, if numerous risks fall under the same category, this may indicate a need to address a broader issue or implement more comprehensive controls.
  • Different categories of risks may require different types of responses. By categorizing risks, project managers can more easily develop targeted risk response plans appropriate for the specific risk.

Risk Probability

Risk probability measures how likely a particular risk is to occur. Risk probability is often determined using a scale in a risk register, such as high, medium, or low.

Assessing risk probability is a significant step in the risk management process because it helps project managers prioritize risks and determine how much resources to devote to risk response planning.

There are various ways to determine risk likelihood, including:

Expert judgment

Expert jusgement involves talking with experts or subject matter professionals to obtain their perspectives on the likelihood of a risk occurring.

Probability and Impact matrix

This involves plotting risks on a matrix based on their likelihood and potential consequences. Risks with a high likelihood and severe consequences would be prioritized over risks with a low likelihood and minor consequences.

Historical data

This involves analyzing past data to determine the likelihood of a risk occurring based on similar situations in the past.

By assessing risk probability, project managers can determine which risks are most likely to occur and prioritize their response efforts accordingly.

Risk Analysis

The process of detecting and evaluating potential risks to an organization, project, or activity is known as risk analysis. It entails thinking about what could go wrong, how likely it is to happen, and the possible consequences. Risk analysis aims to assess and prioritize a business's risks based on their likelihood and impact.

Risk analysis can be approached in various ways, including qualitative methods that rely on expert judgment and subjective judgments and quantitative methods that utilize statistical and mathematical models to evaluate the probability and effects of risks.

Risk Mitigation

The process of detecting and evaluating potential risks to an organization, project, or activity is known as risk analysis. It entails thinking about what could go wrong, how likely it is to happen, and the possible consequences. Risk analysis aims to assess and prioritize a business's risks based on their likelihood and impact.


This involves eliminating the risk by not undertaking the activity or project that exposes the organization to the risk.


This involves transferring the risk to a third party, such as through the use of insurance or by outsourcing the activity to a vendor.


This involves taking steps to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk, such as implementing safety measures or developing contingency plans.


In some cases, it may be necessary to accept the risk and plan for how to respond if it occurs.

Effective risk management requires a systematic approach that includes identifying risks, analyzing them, developing mitigation strategies, and implementing them. Reviewing and updating the risk management plan regularly is important, as circumstances and risks change with time.

Risk Priority

A priority is ranking identified risks based on their probability and potential impact. Risk priority is an important component of the risk register since it aids in the classification of risks based on their relative significance. Risk prioritization allows businesses to concentrate on the risks most likely to emerge and have the largest potential impact. Risk priority is determined in various ways, including applying a risk matrix, a popular method.

In the risk matrix method, a grid is used to plot the chance and each risk's impact on a scale, with higher scores indicating higher risk priority. The risk priority can be calculated based on where the risk lies on the grid.

The risk priority guides the project managers in decision-making and resource management. High-priority risks should be prioritized in risk mitigation efforts and budget allocation. Lower-priority risks may be tracked and controlled but may demand additional attention or resources.

Risk Owner

The person or group within an organization manages a particular risk is the risk owner. Typically, the risk owner is in charge of identifying and assessing the risk. The risk owner also creates and implements risk mitigation plans to manage it effectively.

Establishing specific risk ownership is crucial since it ensures that someone or some group manages risks. Risk ownership assignment promotes rapid risk identification, mitigation, and effective coordination of risk management activities.

Risk ownership can be delegated at several levels within an organization. A senior manager, for example, maybe the risk owner for a strategic risk that impacts the entire business. Still, a project manager could serve as the risk owner for risks related to a specific project.

Risk ownership must be established and communicated throughout the organization to manage risks.

Risk Status

The risk status of a particular risk is an indicator of its present state in a risk registry. The risk status is frequently used to monitor the success of risk management initiatives and to spot any changes in the risk's likelihood or impact. There are many ways to measure risk status in a risk register, but major categories include the following:

Open: This signifies that the risk is still being actively managed.

Closed: When a risk is marked as closed, it has been managed effectively or is no longer relevant.

On hold: This implies that the risk is not being proactively managed at the moment but may be done so in the future.

The risk register's risk status should be updated often to reflect the current situation.

Process of Risk Management

Following is the complete process of managing different types of risks effectively.

Risk Identification

The first step in risk management is risk identification, which involves identifying potential risks impacting the project, organization, or activity. There are several methods for identifying risks, including reviewing historical data, considering external factors such as market forces and weather conditions, and using techniques such as brainstorming and root cause analysis.

Assign Risk Ownership

Risk ownership refers to the individual or group within the organization that is responsible for managing a specific risk. It is important to assign risk ownership to ensure that risks are effectively managed and that a specific person or group is accountable for addressing them.

Monitor Risks

The risk owner is responsible for monitoring the risk and leading any response actions that may be needed. Monitoring risks involves regularly reviewing the risk register to track the status of risks and to identify any changes in the likelihood or impact of the risk.

Resolve Risks

Once a risk has been mitigated or is no longer applicable, it can be closed in the risk register. Resolving risks helps to ensure that resources are adequately dedicated to risks that have been resolved and that the risk management process is focused on the most pressing risks.

Steps to Create a Risk Register

Once you know the common risk types and things that should be included in the risk register, it is time to create a risk register. We have listed all the steps that are necessary for a risk register.

Identify the Risks

The first step in creating a risk register is identifying all potential risks that may affect the project. This process should involve the entire project team as well as stakeholders. Brainstorm all possible risks, no matter how minor they may seem, because it is better to be over-prepared than underprepared when it comes to risk management.

Describe the Risks

Once all potential risks have been identified, they should be thoroughly described in the risk register. This process should include specific details about the risk, such as what could cause it and the potential consequences. Vague descriptions should be avoided.

Consider the Impact

The risk register should also include an assessment of the potential impact of each risk on the project and the business. This analysis will help prioritize risks based on their severity and likelihood.

Devise a Prioritized Plan

Risks should be prioritized based on their impact and likelihood. Ranking can be done using a traffic light(red, green, yellow) or a ranking system from 1 to 5.

Consider How to Handle Each Risk

The risk register should also include a plan of action for how each risk will be managed should it occur. These plans should be well-researched and concise.

Decide on Risk Managers

Each risk should be assigned a risk manager responsible for ensuring the plan of action is implemented if the risk occurs. This adds an element of accountability to the risk management process.

Risk Register Template

Different organizations may have different formats and information included. The risk register should be created according to the specific needs and goals of the organization or project. Following is the template of the risk register used in risk management.

Risk ID Risk Description Risk Category Probability Impact Current Status Mitigation Plan
R1 Delays in the delivery of materials Supply chain High Medium Ongoing Monitor supplier performance and negotiate alternate sources for materials
R2 Lack of skilled labor Resource availability Medium High Closed Training program for existing team members and recruitment of additional skilled labor
R3 Changes in government regulations External factors Low High Closed Monitor regulatory updates and consult with legal counsel as needed
R4 Data security breach Cybersecurity High High Ongoing Implement multi-factor authentication and regular data backups


To sum it up, the risk register is an important tool while managing any project risk. It allows the project managers to identify, assess, and prioritize risks that can impact the project outcome. With the help of the risk register, project managers can take proactive measures to mitigate them.

Besides being a valuable tool for project managers, a risk register can also be a valuable resource for stakeholders as it can promote transparency and accountability in the risk management process. Hence, a project manager should know the risk register as it can increase the chances of project success.

If you loved reading this article, read about Project Risk Management Process, Tools & Templates.

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