Most people think Risks and Issues in project management are same. They use these terms interchangeably. However, Project Risks are entirely different from Project Issues.
The main difference between project risks and issues is that risks are future events that may or may not happen whereas issues are events that have already happened.
You can look at Merriam Webster to understand English meaning of these terms.
Risks in Project Management
Definition of Risk
A project risk an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, can impact the project objectives either positively or negatively.
Essentially it means that a risk may or may not happen but, if it happens, it can have a positive or negative effect on the project objectives.
Unlike the English meaning of risk, a project risk could be either negative or positive. The former is called a Threat and the latter is called an Opportunity.
Examples of Risk
- There is chance that import price of a project equipment may increase due to currency fluctuation. If this happens, it would increase the cost of the project.
- The shipment of machine parts may get delayed due to transportation strike. If this happens, it would delay the project.
- The contractor may finish a critical piece of work early get delayed due to transportation strike. If this happens, the project can be finished earlier.
The first two examples are Threats whereas the last one is an Opportunity.
Issues in Project Management
Definition of Issue
A project issue is a current condition or situation that can impact project objectives.
Essentially it means that an issue has already happened and it can impact project objectives.
Unlike the project risk, an issue is always considered as negative. If a issue happens then it creates a problem.
All risks (threat and opportunities) are noted down in a risk register. Till the time there is an uncertainty, all items in a risk register are considered and analyzed as a risk. A threat translates into an issue or a problem as soon as it happens. On the other hand, opportunities translate into a Windfall.
Examples of Issue
Let’s translate the threat examples given above into issues.
- The import price of a project equipment has increased due to currency fluctuation. The project team will have to ask for more funds.
- The shipment of machine parts has been delayed. The project team will have to reanalyze the schedule to overcome the delay.
Difference Between Project Risks and Issues
You can also read the following to gain more insight:
- A discussion in PMI library to understand some practical aspects.
- An article on how to manage project risks