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What difference between Issues and Risks

October 6th, 2012

There is some confusion between issues and risks. While both issues and risks have consequences (impact), the probability (and, to some extent, the time) dimension is different.

A risk is an event or situation that may possibly, but not necessarily occur, in the future. The probability can range from 0% to 100%. An example: possible loss of key staff members. When risks are identified ahead of time, we can determine mitigations and responses to prevent the risk from becoming an issue.

An issue is a situation that either is currently occurring or will occur in the future. It’s usually unexpected or has a low enough impact and/or probability that developing a mitigation or response was a low priority and, therefore, not part of the risk register (see below). The probability is 100%. An issue that has occurred or is currently happening is referred to as a problem. An example: upcoming termination of vendor support for an older release of a software product. When we know that the end-of-support date is approaching, it becomes an issue. When the date is actually upon us, it becomes a problem. When we know that an issue is coming up, we can try to take steps to deal with the issue before it becomes a problem. Too often, however, issues arise unexpectedly and immediately and must be addressed immediately.

Categories: Project Management
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