Identify Risks in Software Projects


Risks in software projects may arise from different reasons such as developing wrong functionality, or having a project to be delivered beyond the schedule or budget assigned for. Williams and Hechman (2008) explained that the main process that addresses such risk is the risk management process where it minimizes, mitigates, or removes the risk occurred or might occur during the software projects. Once the risks are identified through the risk management process, there are two approaches that such risks can be handled:


  • A reactive approach where the problem can be corrected as it occurs. 
  • A proactive approach, where possible risk can be thought out before it occurs.

Risks with Software Projects (n.d.) explained that software risk management takes the preventive approach to ensure that the project can be delivered within the proposed cost and time. However, before applying any risk management methods, the project team needs to identify the following dimension of risks within the project:


  • Any uncertainty within the project can represent a potential risk that might occur.
  • The loss that will be incurred if the risk occurs; and the severity of such loss.
  • The duration of risk that might happen.

Griffiths(2011) explained that the top reasons for software project risks are the following:


  • Inherent schedule flaws – Where it’s difficult to schedule and estimate, and also the lack of the team involvement in the project estimating and planning.
  • Requirements inflation – Where more requirements can be identified during the project progress that might be a threat to the project timelines and estimates.
  • Employee Turnover – Where the project is significantly delayed or derailed because of key personnel left the project.
  • Specification breakdown – Where the discovery of incomplete requirements become obvious at the beginning of the coding, and integration phase.
  • Poor productivity – With long project timelines, the sense of urgency becomes absent, and resulting time lose of the early stages of the project.

Murthi (2003) argued that unforeseen risks within any software projects can cause major project issues and might lead in many cases to project failure. Risks such as unavailability of skills, integration problems, faulty technology or design issues might be the cause of the risk, and usually desperate attempts can be made to mitigate the impact of such risks on the project. However, recognizing such risks in the early stages, and taking the right steps to address such risk can keep the project on track and avoid the project failure.

Addressing Risks – Risk Management

Williams and Hechman (2008) explained that software development projects might face several types of risks, and some of these risks are:


  • Generic risks – it represents generic threats that might occur across the project such as loss of team members, loss of funding or requirements change.
  • Product specific risks – it represents risks such as product performance or product availability.

The above risks and others risks can be minimized by developing a methodology that can manage risks or use the analysis tools that can analyze the risks, and choose the best way to eliminate or minimize such risks (Williams and Hechman, 2008).

With the tremendous increase in the software development complexity, the increase in the software project’s risks become reality that faces every project, and as such; the risk management process became an essential activities in the software engineering. Risk management process contains all the activities that are performed to reduce the uncertainties associated with specific events or tasks.  Risk management looks at the project from different perspectives to ensure that the threats are analyzed, identified, and appropriate strategies are implemented to control such risks or mitigate them. The mitigation of risks may not mean necessary that the tasks involved such risks have to be eliminated, in many cases the high risk task are important to be included within the product to provide the leading edge among the software competitors (Williams and Hechman, 2008).


Risk is a fact of life, and also a fact of the software development project. To increase the possibility of project success, risk management process has to be conducted within the project to eliminate, ignore or mitigate risks within the project.

Handling common risks on software projects such as; requirements related issues, lack of resources or skills or integration issues of the software have to be handled carefully at the early stage of the project and during the different phases of the project.  Murthi (2003) explained that managing a software project can pose different challenges and risks, and to keep track on the items that can go wrong during the project lifecycle will save the project, and lead to the success.

Finally, estimating the effects of the project risks, and implementing the right tool for risk analysis can help the project team to determine the risk involved, identify it and proposed the best solution to eliminate or mitigate such risk. Some of the reason of project failure is that risks are rarely taken into account; or a simple method was used as a substitute for a detailed risk assessment, and as such; modern estimating tool that can measure risks, and provide solutions for such risks should be used (Adens and Armstrong, 2006).


Adens, G. & Armstrong, R. (2006) Estimating the effects of project risks in software development projects [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 25 May 2011).

Griffiths, M. (2011) The Top Five Software Project Risks [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 25 May 2011).

Murthi, S. (2003) Managing Risks on Software Projects [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 25 May 2011).

Williams, L. & Hechman, S. (2008) Risk Management [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 25 May 2011). (n.d.) Project-Based Software Risk Management Approaches [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 25 May 2011).










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