How to Mitigate Risks in Software Development Projects

Software development is a risk-sensitive field that prioritizes both creativity and order. Moving things from an idea to design, programming, documenting, testing, and launching the final product is a lot of work, and risks are part and parcel of the process. 

All the successful software projects have a solid risk mitigation strategy to shield against common risks and random unexpected events. Below, we’ve highlighted the common types of risks and how you can design the best risk mitigation strategy to use in your software development projects.

4 types of Risks in Software Development 

Software development projects often comprise several mini-projects created separately before they can be pieced together. Here, a risk is an event that could compromise the successful completion of the project. Risks result in losses, and project managers need to assess and map the possible risk events before working on their solutions.

Before we look at how to create a solid software-development risk management plan, let’s first understand the common types of risk faced by software development teams. We’ve rounded up the common types of risks below: 

Organizational risks. These are risks that arise due to poor strategizing of the projects and tasks at hand. These include generic specifications on the scope of work, communication issues, incorrect deadlines, etc.

Schedule risks. These risks often arise due to time zone differences causing collaboration issues and even delays in meeting the required quality or deadlines.

Technical risks. These are risks that cause functionality and performance failure. Common technical risks include the wrong choice of technology, working on an existing source code, etc.

Operational risks. Most events that may hinder the implementation of software can be considered as operational risks. These often occur due to poor planning and prototyping, lack or shortage of expert developers, poor testing strategies, etc. 


How to Create a Software Development Risk Management Plan

Every software development team strives to create a unique and valuable piece of software in the most cost-effective way. This often means strategizing over and over until there’s a solid development path that will guarantee better results. Even then, challenges and risks are inevitable.

The best software development teams understand that there’s no one proven strategy when responding to project risks. That is partly because threats can be so random and unexpected that there’s always an element of surprise and luck to it. That said, being ready to face any risk that may come along the way is the best defense.

Here’s how you can work on your software-development risk management strategies:

1. Identify and Classify Risks

The first step to risk management is to determine all the possible risks and their triggers. Based on the types of risks we’ve identified above, you can quickly tell which ones are more severe if all had the same probability of happening. Next is to pick those that are more likely to happen and the potential issues that may arise after they happen. Risk identification aims to map all the possible events that could cause threats to project completion. 

2. Draft a Risk Mitigation Plan 

After identifying all the possible risks, including their probability of happening and the associated severity, what follows is to work on their possible solutions. Your risk management plan should be specific yet comprehensive. That is, you should have an answer to every potential problem, and all should be compatible, or at least they shouldn’t undermine each other. In other words, if more than one risk event occurs, your solutions shouldn’t be working against one another.

3. Risk Monitoring, Evaluation, and Mitigation 

Having a solid risk mitigation strategy will give your team some confidence throughout the implementation phase. However, if you don’t take the time to monitor these risks to inform your strategy, your efforts may be counterproductive.

A rule of thumb is to check the project’s progress at every critical stage. You also want to regularly review project reports and check for potential risk events. As project implementation continues, get your risk management team to revise the risk plans based on real-time developments.

Similarly, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the possible new risks introduced due to the modifications made. For example, is the project timeline affected by altering the methodology or adopting different software testing techniques? Will hiring a new project manager to jeopardize the flow of communication between teams and how things are executed?


Stay Up-to-Date with Risk Management Solutions

Managing risks in the software development landscape can be challenging but not impossible. This multidisciplinary aspect requires expertise and agility to call it a success. Here, turning to smart risk management solutions could be your best bet. 

That said, the best Governance, Risk, and Control (GRC) solutions in the market address Enterprise Risk Management and cybersecurity risks. They also allow for customizable risk calculations and continuous monitoring, helping software development teams to stay ahead of potential challenges.

However, investing in such technologies isn’t the silver bullet. You still need to have a great team and prioritize effective communication to ensure the proper flow of information from the C-suite to the employees and vice-versa. 


This article was contributed by Reciprocity

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Son Chu

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