Risk Prioritization and Communication in Scrum

December 13, 2013
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Risk Prioritization

Scrum allows for quick identification and assessment of risks. Identified Risks are taken into account when creating a Prioritized Product Backlog during the Create Prioritized Product Backlog process, or when we update the Prioritized Product Backlog during the Groom Prioritized Product Backlog process—so a Prioritized Product Backlog could also be referred to as a Risk Adjusted Prioritized Product Backlog.

The risks could be identified and assessed based on any of the Risk Identification and Risk Assessment techniques mentioned earlier. In the Create Prioritized Product Backlog or Groom Prioritized Product Backlog processes, the prioritized User Stories from the existing Prioritized Product Backlog and the prioritized list of risks are then combined to create an updated Prioritized Product Backlog which includes the Identified Risks:

Steps for updating a Prioritized Product Backlog with Identified Risks:

1. Create a list of prioritized risks. (e.g., the risks can be prioritized by value using Expected Monetary Value  technique).

2. Select those Identified Risks that can be mitigated; and for which the team decides to take specific risk action during the Sprint to mitigate such risks.

3. Create a list of User Stories in the Prioritized Product Backlog, which are prioritized by value (e.g., the value of each User Story may be evaluated based on its expected Return on Investment).

4. Combine lists in step 2 and step 3 and prioritize them by value to arrive at the Updated Prioritized Product Backlog.

Risk Communication

Because stakeholders have an interest in the project, it is important to communicate with them regarding risks. Information provided to stakeholders related to risk should include potential impact and the plans for responding to each risk. This communication is on-going and should occur in parallel with the four sequential steps discussed thus far—risk identification, assessment, prioritization and mitigation. The Scrum Team may also discuss specific risks related to their Tasks with the Scrum Master during Daily Standup Meetings. The Product Owner is responsible for the prioritization of risks and for communicating the prioritized list to the Scrum Team.

An important tool which can be used for communicating information related to risks is the Risk Burndown Chart.

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