No matter how well you plan, how easy the task seems, or how brilliant your team is — projects rarely go without a hitch. Like death and taxes (as the saying goes), it’s just a fact of life.
As a project manager, it’s always a good idea to plan thoroughly and do what you can to mitigate the chances of problems happening mid-project. Planning and proper organization go a long way. But, alongside preparing for what will happen, it’s important you consider things that might happen. Or, in other words, you need to consider risks.
Risks are issues in the making. By working out your probable risks, you can plan ahead to minimize the chances of them happening. And if they do, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them with less fuss.
Once you’ve worked out what your risks are, you’ll need to monitor them throughout the project lifecycle. This is where a RAID log comes in.
What is a RAID log?
RAID stands for Risks, Actions, Issues, and Decisions. Here’s what each of these means in a little more detail:
Risks: Risks are potential issues. They’re not things that have happened yet, nor are they certain. They’re also not necessarily negative: Positive risks exist and should be considered alongside negative ones. In short, anything that could potentially change the course of the project should be considered a risk.
Actions: Actions are tasks that need to be completed during the project.
Issues: Issues are problems that have arisen throughout the course of the project. If they’re not addressed fast, they could lead to project failure.
Decisions: Decisions are choices that have been made throughout the project.
Why is a RAID log important?
A RAID log is a way of tracking risks throughout the problem. It’s a helpful way to organize information so that if you’re called on to plan ahead or explain an issue, you have all the data you need in one place.
How to use a RAID log
RAID logs are really easy to create and use. You simply create a document in a spreadsheet or your project management tool containing the four categories above. The first two categories (risks and issues) should be completed before project kick-off. The second two should be filled out as the project progresses.
Here are some tips on filling out each section:
Note down every conceivable risk that might occur during the project lifecycle. These could be negative risks, like staff being off sick, or delivery issues — or positive risks, like a surge in orders or a client asking for more work.
For each risk, note down the probability of it happening, along with notes on how you’ll deal with each one as it arises.
In your project management tool (or spreadsheet), note down each risk, an action to take if that risk becomes an issue, then assign that action to a member of the team.
- Check out our guide to creating a risk breakdown structure for more tips and examples
It’s also a good idea to review your risks as the project progresses. Make sure that none have gone unchecked. Also ensure that you upgrade, add, remove, or downgrade risks as more information comes in.
Every action should be assigned to someone on the team. That means that every risk has an owner, meaning that in the eventuality of it happening, things are addressed quickly and efficiently (rather than everyone assuming it’s someone else’s responsibility). Any completed actions need to be recorded to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Any issues — whether or not they were identified as risks before they happened — need to be recorded in the log. The project manager should also record how and when the issue was dealt with and by whom. This information is important in the event of an audit or stakeholder meeting, so make sure it’s recorded fully and clearly.
Before project kick-off, note down all of the decisions that need to be made throughout the project’s lifecycle, along with who is responsible for this decision. Then, once the project starts, keep a running tally of decisions that have been made, including why, when, and who was responsible for each one.
Advantages of using a RAID log
Projects can be chaotic things, so the more organized you can make the whole thing, the better — and RAID logs are just another tool to help you do that.
They also help you approach the project proactively. RAID logs force you to think about risks before the project begins rather than just diving in and dealing with issues in an ad-hoc manner.
RAID logs are another way to show your diligence as a manager. If issues do occur and incur additional time and cost, you’ll be able to explain to stakeholders what needs to be done and why — as well as demonstrate that you’d not overlooked anything crucial. Most of their questions will be answered in the log.
In short, a RAID log means you have more control over your data, which you’ll be able to access easily and quickly when you need it. It also means you’ll be able to tackle issues effectively because you already have a framework in place. And, when the risk has been addressed, you’ll be able to measure how effective you’ve been in tackling it.
So to recap, RAID Logs help you do the following:
- Strategically organize your data
- Plan ahead to mitigate risks
- Have complete data to-hand for meetings and audits
- Have a structure in place for addressing issues quickly and effectively
- Make more consistent decisions
- Have a detailed record of the decisions that were made and why
- Have a record of events, which you can use to help you plan for the next project
- You have a record of assumptions made about the project and a concrete way to review these in your project post-mortem
RAID log best practice
No project management tool is completely perfect, and RAID logs are no different. They can become big, unruly documents if not carefully managed — and they take time to both create and maintain. Here are some tips on keeping yours under control.
Prioritize your risks
RAID logs should be detailed, but for particularly large projects, going into the same level of detail for every risk will just be too time-consuming. In this case, prioritize your project risks on a scale of 1-3 or 1-5, and focus most of your resources on managing those of higher priority.
Work with your team and stakeholders
There’s no way one person can consider every single risk — so involve key people to help you plan ahead.
Use the right tools for the job.
Projects involve lots of information, so the more organized you can be with it, the better. To have the biggest chance of success, we recommend investing in a good quality project management tool.
With Backlog, our own project management software, you can track risks in real-time, set up alerts, and assign actions with the click of a button. It automatically generates progress charts and grapes — and because it works in real-time, everyone on the team will be able to track progress and access the most up-to-date data as it happens, rather than as it happened.