Sun. Jan 22nd, 2023

Identifying Typical Risks

Any project has to deal with a certain amount of risk. Regardless of how good the planning is, there will always be something unforeseen that crops up and causes problems.

These risks are categorised as either internal risks or external risks.

Internal Risks

Anything from within your team that could affect the project is an internal risk. You might think that planning a project means that you can avoid these, but unfortunately this isn’t the case.

Consider the following (this is a selection of risks, not a definitive list):

  • New technology – you are using a new language (or framework) for the development of this project. You have some very good coders, but they need to learn the features before they are productive. It is difficult to put a time limit on how long it will take to learn and become proficient in something
  • Personnel availability – you allocated the tasks that need completing to three developers, and everything fits it perfectly, and the software will be completed on time. Except one of the developers catches ‘flu, and is off work for a week, which meant that the other two had to wait, because their work needed to be integrated with the third developer’s work
  • Interpersonal issues – whilst this could of course include staff falling out with each other, consider new working relationships; just as with a teacher-student relationship, it can take a while to work out how two people can work most productively together. If you have a new team, or new members within a team, you should be aware that there may be a period where they are not working together at their best while the relationship builds
  • Systems availability – how do you know for certain that your system will be available all of the time it is needed? What happens if a critical piece of infrastructure fails during the development process?

External Risks

As the name would suggest, external risks are those risks which occur outside of your organisation. Some examples of external risks include:

  • Reliance on external companies – what would happen if you ordered vital equipment from a third-party supplier but it doesn’t turn up on time? How will you continue working without that equipment?
  • Scope creep – depending on how well defined the project is, there is a danger that scope creep will affect your ability to deliver the project: this is where the project grows and additional features get added to the requirements. Obviously, this will affect the development and delivery timelines
  • Emergent technology – new technology could arrive that renders a project useless, or fundamentally changes the way the project needs to be designed
  • Political and legal – what happens if you have a project designed to perform contact-tracing, but part way through the development, the law changes to ban any kind of tracing app?


By definition, external risks are more difficult to predict and control, because as a project manager, you will have a good idea of the ability of your team, and their strengths and weaknesses. There is also a limited scope for issues that could arise.

External risks cover everything outside of your team: it is highly likely that many external risks would only become apparent once they actually occur – that feeling of “if only I’d have thought about that…”