My Project Management Expert

What is Contingency Planning?

An important element to managing project risk is understanding, what is contingency planning. You see there is no point raising critical risks without having a contingency plan you can implement to mitigate it should they occur.

So think of it this way. A contingency plan is simply a fancy way of saying, that should a risk happen, you have thought of a way of reducing it's impact to the project. You could also call it a "Plan B". This is absolutely vital because sods law being what it is, if you don't spend the time to do some serious contigency planning, the risk will happen and your project will fail taking you down in the process.

The key thing you need to do is to make sure that you have done enough work without going overboard. A good way of achieving this is to follow the 5 points below:

1. Determine which are the key risks which have the potential to occur and which would serious jeopardise the project.

2. Prioritise these risks in terms of magnitude

3. Determine which one's are under you control and which one's are completely out of your control.

4. Immediately escalate the risks which are out of your control upwards to your project / programme board for their information and also knowledge in how these couldbe mitigatesd.

5. Start contingency planning on those risks within your control.

Now that you've done this you are able to get to grips with contingency planning. Now all you have to do is simply create an additional column in your Risk Log in which you can detail how you would mitigate that risk. For one's which require much more detailed planning you could if necessary document the mitigation in a Microsoft Project project plan.

So an example when you would do this is:

On launching a new major website there is always a risk the actual launch could go wrong

Therefore you need to have a detailed contingency plan in place which is agreed upfront and can be implemented quickly should it be required. This is usually known in IT as rolling back the change. However with something this big it's not as easy as simply flipping a switch. A contingency plan to deliver this could easily run to 200 lines and would need to include not just the IT changes, but also the PR and content changes required as well.

However be aware that contingency planning takes many different forms. This means the output ie the "plan" could also be a number of different things from a plan in your head, to an MS project plan to a word document. In fact in some situations for example where there is a risk there may be too few resources, the contingency plan could actually be a job specification ready to be sent to IT Agents to enable them to locate further experienced people as fast as possible coupled with approval from HR.

As in all things in project management, the key to contingency planning is that you should follow a process which you feel comfortable with, which also allows you to concentrate on what is important. Just remember not to forget this.

What is Contingency Planning? - Tip

As long as you have a Plan B thought out, and all the various elements prepped ready to go should the worst happen, then that's all you can do. After all contingency planning won't deliver you project, it is merely there as an insurance policy should a major risk occur.

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