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 Software Risk Management-The Basics | PM Tools - PM Tools

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Software Risk Management-The Basics

“Software risk management is important because it helps avoid disasters, rework, and overkill, but more importantly because it stimulates win-win situations” – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 1999.

Risk is defined as “The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger.” Even if we’re not familiar with the formal definition, most of us have an innate sense of risk. Risks shape many of our behaviors. Software Technical Risk can be defined as a measure of the probability and severity of adverse effects inherent in the development of software that does not meet its intended functions and performance requirements.

The term Risk Management is applied in a number of diverse disciplines. To many social analysts, politicians, and academics it is the management of environmental and nuclear risks. Software Risk Management is a proactive approach for minimizing the uncertainty and potential loss associated with a project.

It includes the set of practices that enable software development projects to identify, prioritize, address, eliminate and manage specific software risk items before they become threats to success or major sources of rework. Some categories of risk include product size, business impact, customer-related, process, technology, development environment, staffing (size and experience), schedule, and cost. Awareness of Software Risk Management has been increasing in the industry.

The primary goal of a software development project is to develop code and documentation that will meet the project’s requirements. The risks are measured in the testing phase. The specific attributes measured during software development are Maintainability-for ease of finding and fixing the errors, Reusability and above all Structure/Architecture – Evaluation of the constructs within a module to identify possible error-prone modules. Once code has been generated and completed, unit testing, formal testing – System, Integration, and Acceptance Testing – begins which usually emphasizes on correctness and reliability of the software.

Major software projects have the highest probability of being cancelled or delayed of any known business activity. Once deployed, software projects often display excessive error densities and low levels of reliability. However, it is not a law of nature that software projects will run late, be cancelled, or be unreliable after deployment. A careful program of risk analysis and abatement can reduce the probability of major software disasters, and also shorten average development cycles at the same time.

Poor estimations and planning, wrong status report of projects with misleading and unacceptably poor software quality and reliability are some of those serious and real issues against software organizations which are agreed by the software executives and managers themselves. Additional risk factors like new major requirements in mid-development and harmful schedule pressure by the executives that damages quality makes it crucial to examine the root causes which includes process factors, technology and product factors, and organizational factors, organizational capabilities and explore the current state of the art for minimizing their harmful effects.

Some paradigms, principles, techniques and tools are used to manage the risks.
The paradigm is a framework for software risk management. From this framework, a project may structure a risk management practice best fitting into its project management structure. It is usually a cyclic process containing identification, analyze, plan, track, control, formal or informal communication for achieving a common goal.

The maturity framework into which these quality principles have been adapted was first inspired by Philip Crosby in his book Quality is Free [Crosby 79]. The staged structure of the SW-CMMSM is based on product quality principles that have existed for the last 60 years. The framework provides the solutions on the basis of seven main risk management principles—shared product vision, teamwork, global perspective, forward-looking view, open communication, integrated management, and continuous process.

These principles have been adapted into a maturity framework that establishes the project management and engineering foundation during the initial stages, and quantitatively controls the process during the more advanced stages of maturity.

Top-down risk estimation maps project risk into schedule completion dates. Bottom-up risk management puts detail behind the top-down approach. Bottom-up risk management identifies underlying project strengths and risks that drive the top-down risk estimate.

Using the Project Self-Assessment Kit, these results can be achieved quickly, easily, and confidentially. The SATC has applied its metrics experience and some concepts from theoretical models of software quality to develop a unique model for evaluation of quality and project risks. This model fits the needs of project managers of many reputable organizations like NASA and GSFC because the model is dynamic, not static, in the fact that it allows the production of multiple snapshots of project status across the development.

The data is used to make projects about specific project risks at project milestones. The model uses a broad range of measures for both software products and development processes. The model is applicable across the development life cycle. The model’s metrics are derived based on aspects of the attributes that answer questions of the project managers. The model includes analysis guidelines for the data collected.

“Risk Guide 2.30 risk management tools” also helps in managing the risks in software development because for successful risk management effectiveness, continuous and open communication is prerequisite. Therefore, provide the project stakeholders a broad and highly available communication channel through which they can communicate risk-related information. On top of this communication facility establish continuous risk assessment process based on three concepts: reviews, snapshots and reports that underpin the three layers of processing the risk-related information: identification, analysis and reporting and something which creates a great ease in software risk management is risk database which should be equipped with learning facilities to provide for “learning from experience”.

The SEI Software Risk Evaluation (SRE) Service is a diagnostic and decision-making tool that enables the identification, analysis, tracking, mitigation, and communication of risks in software-intensive programs. An SRE is used to identify and categorize specific program risks emanating from product, process, management, resources, and constraints. The programs own personnel participate in the identification, analysis, and mitigation of risks facing their own development effort.


Large software projects are very hazardous business ventures. For projects above 10,000 function points, cancellations, delays and cost overruns have been the norm rather than the exception. But careful analysis of the root causes of large software project delays and disasters indicate that most of the problems stem from inaccurate estimation, inaccurate status reporting, and lack of historical data from similar projects.

All of these root causes can be minimized or even eliminated by the adoption of formal estimating methods and tools, by formal monthly status reports of both quantitative and qualitative data, and by benchmark analysis of similar projects to provide a solid basis of what can and cannot be accomplished.

The results of these activities are used to develop an actionable framework of risk mitigation actions based on assessor experience and individual project characteristics. Formal risk assessment is most effective for projects with relatively significant risk. In addition, the organization for which a project is being assessed needs to have sufficient project management infrastructure to be able to take action based on the results. The organization also needs to have a commitment to improving project execution effectiveness.

I am Syed Yasir Imam, currently studying in Final Year of Computer Science Department, University of Karachi, Pakistan. In my unviersity experience regarding software development we faced a lot of problems and that was no doubt at the very basic levels and was not as much big like as of an organization but yeah when we sticked with the activities of risk management discussed here, we have got success!! pray for us!!
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