5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 11: Information Gathering Techniques for Identifying Risks

1.  Introduction

Process 11.2 Identify Risks is the first planning process after the process that creates the Risk Management Plan.  It is important to identify the risks that will affect the project, and that is why there are more inputs to this process that almost any other project management process.

One tool for identifying techniques is to use information gathering techniques.  The purpose of this post is to outline four of these techniques.

2.  Information Gathering Techniques

The following is a summary of the four information-gathering techniques that can be used to identify risks.



1. Brainstorming Obtaining a comprehensive list of project risks, categorized by type of risk, with a multidisciplinary set of experts.  Can be free-form or a structured mass interview.
2. Delphi technique Reaches a consensus of experts through questionnaires, the responses to which are summarized.  Results can be recirculated to the experts for further comment.
3. Interviewing Interviewing experienced project participants, stakeholders, and subject matter experts.
4. Root-cause analysis Specific technique used to identify a problem, discover the underlying causes that lead to it, and develop preventive action.

Brainstorming uses a facilitator who interviews a set of experts who are usually not members of the project team.  It can be either free-form or more structured, depending on the culture of the organization.

Delphi technique performs the same brainstorming function, but by sending questionnaires to the experts rather than interviewing them en masse in person.  This is used to prevent one expert’s opinions from swaying the others, which could conceivably happen in the first technique.

Interviewing is where the facilitator interviews those project team members and concerned stakeholders, as opposed to the brainstorming and Delphi techniques which are usually used to gather opinions from experts who are not directly involved in the project.

Root-cause analysis, similar to that used in solving quality-related problems, can be used to categorize risks according to their source, to list risks in each category, and then to propose preventive actions to prevent these risks, or to develop countermeasures or risk responses if they happen to occur.  It can be used as part of brainstorming, the first technique listed, to identify risks.

In addition to root-cause analysis, many risk diagramming techniques can be used in a brainstorming session to identify risks.  That is the subject of the next post.


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