In Uncertainty Management, some terms take on a specific meaning, particularly in the context of infrastructure rather than finance.

For our purposes a project is:

  • unique – a one-of-a-kind endeavour
  • temporary – planned to cease to exist after a certain point in time
  • focused on delivering a well-defined outcome

Project Risk Management is:

  • the process or processes by which projects formally manage their uncertainty, this is now considered a core part of the overall management of projects.

A typical process is iterative and has several different stages as for example demonstrated in this figure:


In addition to individual project risk management, there are often also more complex situations involving a programme or a portfolio of projects.

In the context of Uncertainty and infrastructure projects,

a programme is:

  • a group of projects with a related set of objectives
  • normally only successful if each of the individual projects is successful, although if it fails, it doesn’t necessarily mean all the constituent projects have failed

A portfolio is:

  • a group of projects whose objectives are not closely related, but which have some other inter-relationship, such as being delivered by the same organisation, or the projects take place in the same geographical area

Programme and Portfolio Risk Management have to operate in a number of different contexts from Project Risk Management:

  • Within the programme, the constituent projects will normally be at different stages of development at any given point in time
  • The size and complexity of the projects may not be directly related to their importance to the programme or portfolio, and this importance may not be recognised in advance
  • Each project will make assumptions about the adjacent / interacting projects – which may or may not be in alignment, and may or may not turn out to be true

In this situation, we might employ systems mapping – identifying the touch points between projects and the potential consequences.


PRM is often implemented using a combination of:

  • project teams doing it themselves
  • creating an in-house risk team
  • using external experts for guidance
  • outsourcing

I have spent many hours facilitating workshops for in-house teams.

A key part of my role is often to increase awareness of implicit assumptions and their possible implications. I sometimes feel like the little boy shouting that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

© 2021 Robinson Consultants Ltd