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Risk management in software engineering

Nov 08, 2022

8 minutes read

Software development is impossible without technological advances and requires a high level of knowledge from different fields. It is also why every software development project contains uncertainty elements, leading to project risks. The success of a software development project largely depends on risk management in software engineering. The project manager should not be just aware of the risks to achieving a successful result. His team should identify, assess, log, prioritize, and manage risks.

Most software engineering projects aim to provide users value through new features, efficiency gains, or innovations. Software project managers will agree that searching for such opportunities goes hand in hand with the unknown. Because risks are present in all software projects, stakeholders must work diligently to identify, understand, and mitigate any risks that threaten project success. In our experience, the key to success for most time- and cost-constrained projects is risk reduction-centric management (a competitive product idea, strategic planning, and user feedback).

Risk management in software engineering: What is it?

Simply put, the risk is a potential problem. According to LinkedIn, 70% of software projects fail. The main reason is that the chances of software projects were initially not assessed or underestimated. Enterprises often control the budgets and timing of projects but often need to pay more attention to potential delays, additional costs, or communication problems. How to reduce risks in a project? Risk assessment and scoring will help you avoid project violations and eliminate problematic situations.

Software risk mitigation helps you identify your project’s threats, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Here are the general reasons for the category of risks that need to be worked out.

What is risk management in software engineering

Risk management is the systematic process of managing the likelihood of events in a project and reducing uncertainty. Project risk management aims to increase the likelihood and impact of favorable circumstances and reduce the likelihood and impact of adverse events for the project.

Risk management in software engineering means containment and reduction of risks. First, you must identify and plan for them. Then, be prepared to act when trouble arises and minimize its impact on the project.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Identify risks and reasons for them
  • Classify and prioritize risks
  • Monitor risk triggers
  • Mitigate risks if necessary
  • Update risk statuses constantly

Identification and classification of risks

What matters here is not elegance or range of classification but rather the precise definition and description of all real threats to the project’s success. A simple but effective classification scheme allocates risks by area of impact for effective risk management in software engineering.

Types of risk management in software engineering

For most projects, there are five main areas of risk exposure:

New technologies

Most software projects request the use of modern technologies. The tools, methods, protocols, standards, and development systems are constantly changing. It is where the risks occur. Don’t forget about training and remember that the misuse of new technologies often leads directly to project failure.

Requirements issues

The software requirements describe user needs regarding the software system’s features, functions, and quality of service. Too often, the requirements definition process is lengthy, tedious, and complex. Moreover, requirements usually change, leading to changes in the entire project, and changes to user requirements may not meet functional needs. It can cause one or more critical failures in a poorly planned software development project.

Application and system architecture

Making the wrong choice about the platform, components, or project architecture can have disastrous consequences. As with technology risks, the team must include experts who understand the architecture and can make the right design choices.

User experience

Any risk management plan should always address user and partner performance expectations. Remember benchmarks and threshold testing to ensure that work products are moving in the right direction.

Organizational activities

Organizational problems can also adversely affect project outcomes. Project management must plan to execute tasks efficiently and balance the development team’s needs with the client’s expectations. Not to mention, always select team members with a skill set well-suited to the project.

Risk management plan

After cataloging all the risks by type, the software development project manager must create risk management in a software engineering plan. It describes the response that will be taken against each risk if it materializes.

Monitoring and leveling the consequences

Effective risk monitoring should be an integral part of most project activities. Essentially, this means frequently checking during project meetings and critical events.

Monitoring actions:

  • Include a risk management section in your regular reports.
  • Revisit risk plans after any significant changes to the project schedule.
  • Review and reprioritize risks regularly, eliminating those with the least likelihood.
  • Brainstorm potential new risks after changes in project schedule or scope.
  • Take appropriate measures from the risk management plan to mitigate the consequences of the risk (if it occurs).

Leveling options

Accept: Accept that the project is affected by the risk. Make a clear decision to take the risk without any changes to the project. Project management approval is required here.

Avoid: Adjust project scope, schedule, or constraints to minimize risk impact.

Control: Take action to minimize exposure or reduce risk escalation.

Delegate: Make an organizational shift in accountability, responsibility, or authority to other stakeholders who will take the risk.

Continue monitoring: monitor the project environment for potentially increasing risk exposure. It makes sense for minor risks.


Throughout the project, it is vital to ensure effective communication between all stakeholders: managers, developers, quality assurance specialists, and especially marketers and customer representatives. Sharing information and getting feedback on risks will significantly increase the likelihood of project success. It is a crucial part of risk management in software engineering. Contact us to find out how to avoid risks in your projects.

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