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Risk factors in NSW government agency


Paul Bannerman



Executive Summary

NSW Government agencies have a proud tradition in effective ICT adoption, which is supported by the projects in this study. However, while we are getting better at managing projects, outcomes can be improved through better risk management. The identification and control of risks has a critical contribution to make in delivering successful projects.

Three major findings emerged from risk management practices in the projects studied: 1. there is a need to improve our understanding and management of software project risk 2. we tend to build risks into the design of our software projects 3. we need to develop risk management capabilities as well as better engineering solutions

The research study examined 17 software projects and 17 agencies. While project management tended to be driven by a formal methodology, risk management was not. Furthermore, a review of research and practice literature on risk management indicated that our conception of software project risk has largely stalled.

The study found ten groups of risk factors that are especially relevant to agency software projects. These risk factors point to the importance of: • having an effective project governance framework • matching methods to the needs of each project during set up • engaging third-party partners in a way that optimises their contributions • having strong business proprietorship • building individual and organisational capabilities in project management • concurrently managing the organisational impacts of ICT-enabled change • viewing software projects as a management as well as engineering activity • recognising and treating agency- and project-specific ‘red flags’ • developing real-time risk management capabilities as well as processes • seeking and capturing benefits from software projects

In response to these findings, five management guidelines and ten process guidelines are outlined to improve software project risk management and performance in agencies. A simple scorecard is also suggested for getting a quick assessment of the overall ‘health’ of a software project at any time throughout its life cycle.

Finally, opportunities created by the study for further collaboration to improve risk management and project performance are outlined.

BibTeX Entry

    author           = {Bannerman, Paul},
    month            = jan,
    year             = {2006},
    title            = {Risk Factors in {NSW} Government Agency},
    institution      = {NSW Department of Commerce (on behalf of NSW Government)},
    address          = {Sydney, Australia}


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