Risk Identification

Updated on January 5, 2024
Article byKosha Mehta
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Risk Identification?

Risk identification is the process of identifying and defining potential risks that could impact the successful completion of a project, program, or any other endeavor. This is the first step in risk management, the purpose is systematic process of anticipating, assessing, and controlling potential harm to an organization.

Risk Identification

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Risks can come from various sources, including internal processes, external events, human factors, technology, and natural disasters. By identifying risks early in the project lifecycle, organizations can take proactive steps to mitigate or avoid these risks and ensure the project’s success.

Key Takeaways

  • Risk identification is identifying and defining potential risks that could impact the success of a project.
  • There are several techniques organizations can use to identify risks, including brainstorming, root cause analysis, SWOT analysis, and expert judgment.
  • The risk identification process includes defining the project scope, identifying potential risks, assessing the likelihood and impact of each risk, and developing mitigation plans for the most critical risks.
  • The risk assessment process evaluates the impact of identified risks, whereas risk identification focuses on the likelihood of risks occurring.

Risk Identification Process Explained

The risk identification process defines the scope of a project or program. It consists of various steps outlining the project’s boundaries and requirements. Also, this ensures that it considers and accounts for all potential risks. These stages include:

  1. Identifying potential risks: In this step, the project team and stakeholders identify potential risks that could impact the project. This includes internal factors, such as resource shortages, and external factors, such as changes in regulations or market conditions.
  2. Assessing the likelihood and impact: Once potential risks have been identified, the next step is to assess the likelihood and impact of each risk. The likelihood refers to the probability of the risk occurring, while the impact refers to the potential consequences if the risk does occur.
  3. Prioritizing risks: Based on the likelihood and impact of each risk, the risks should be prioritized so that the most critical risks can be addressed first. This ensures that the project’s limited resources go toward the most important risks.
  4. Developing risk mitigation plans: For the most critical risks, the project team should develop risk mitigation plans to minimize the potential impact of the risks. Hence, this may include purchasing insurance, making changes to the project schedule, or developing contingency plans.
  5. Continuously monitoring and updating: Finally, the risk management plan should be continuously monitored and updated as the project progresses. New risks may emerge, and the likelihood and impact of existing risks may change, so it is important to keep the risk management plan up-to-date. This ensures the project gets protection against potential risks throughout its lifecycle.

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There are several techniques that organizations can use to identify risks. They are the following –

#1 – Brainstorming

A group of stakeholders from different departments or disciplines identifies potential risks. It can be an effective tool for generating creative and innovative ideas, and it can help to foster collaboration and teamwork among project team members.

#2 – Root Cause Analysis

A systematic approach to identifying the underlying causes of risks. It involves investigating the factors contributing to a particular risk event to identify the root cause and develop effective risk mitigation strategies.

#3 – SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis represents the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is a structured approach that can help to identify internal and external factors that can affect the success of an initiative.

#4 – Expert Judgment

Consulting with experts who have experience with similar projects or in relevant fields. The experts can provide insights and recommendations on the technical feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and other factors related to the project.


Let’s consider a construction project. In this case, the risk identification process would involve defining the project’s scope, including the construction type, the completion timeline, and the allocated budget. Once the project scope has been established, the risk identification process would move to identify potential risks that could impact the project.

Some examples of potential risks in a construction project could include weather conditions, such as hurricanes, floods, or extreme temperatures, which could delay or interrupt the construction process.

Other risks could include resource shortages, such as construction materials, equipment, or skilled labor, which could impact the project’s timeline and budget. Labor disputes, such as strikes or protests by construction workers, could also be risky.

After identifying potential risks, the next step would be to assess the likelihood and impact of each risk. After prioritizing based on their likelihood and impact, the project team develops mitigation plans to minimize the impact. Mitigation plans may involve taking preventative measures, such as sourcing materials from alternative suppliers, or developing contingency plans, such as adjusting the project timeline to account for delays.

In the case of a construction project, risk identification would involve identifying potential risks such as weather conditions, resource shortages, and labor disputes, assessing the likelihood and impact of each risk, and developing mitigation plans to minimize the impact of the most critical risks.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let us look at its pros and cons to understand the concept better.


  • Early identification of potential risks.
  • Improved planning and preparation for potential risks.
  • A better understanding of the risks involved in a project.
  • Improved communication and collaboration among stakeholders.


  • Time and resource consumption.
  • Difficulty in accurately predicting all risks.
  • Potential for over-analyzing risks and losing focus on the project’s objectives.

Difference Between Risk Identification And Risk Assessment

Risk IdentificationRisk Assessment
The first step in the risk management process.The next step after risk identification.
Involves identifying potential risks.Involves evaluating the impact of identified risks.
Focuses on the likelihood of risks occurring.Focuses on the consequences of risks occurring.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is risk identification in project management?

Risk identification in project management is identifying potential risks that could negatively impact the success of a project. It involves identifying and evaluating the potential threats and uncertainties that could cause the project to deviate from its original goals, timeline, and budget.

Why is risk identification important?

Risk identification is important in project management because it provides a systematic approach to identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing potential risks that could negatively impact the project. By identifying risks at the beginning of the project, project managers can take proactive measures to mitigate or avoid these risks, thus increasing the chances of project success.

When should risk identification be performed?

Risk identification should be performed as early as possible in the project lifecycle. Risk identification should be performed during the project planning phase and should be a continuous process throughout the project lifecycle. It allows the project team to adjust the project plan, budget, and schedule to address potential risks.

What is risk identification checklist?

A risk identification checklist is a tool used to help project managers and team members systematically identify potential risks that could impact a project. The checklist outlines a series of questions or prompts to guide the risk identification process, ensuring that all relevant factors are considered.

This article has been a guide to what is Risk Identification. We explain its techniques, examples, and comparison with risk assessment, advantages, & disadvantages. You may also find some useful articles here –