Issues and risks are often mistaken for having the same meaning by some Project Managers. In reality, they are not.
So what exactly is the difference between an issue and a risk?
- An issue is something happening currently, a risk is something that might happen in the future.
- An issue is not risky, it is just something unfavorable. It has little or no effect on the scope, the budget, and the schedule of the project. A risk, on the other hand, can have drastic effects on the triple constraints if not managed properly.
- An example of an issue is: “Tom isn’t very good with stored procedures and we need to write a significant logic of the application in stored procedures”. The solution to the previous is trivial, we can just have someone else write those stored procedures. On the other hand, an example of a risk would be: “The client might not honor the next payment for the project”. Clearly, the latter case has a much bigger impact than the former, a client not honoring the payment can have very negative effects on the project (the project might be killed).
In short, the main difference between an issue and a risk is the time and the level of impact on the project: Issues are current events that have little effect on the project and solving them is usually easy, risks are future events that may have severe effects on the project and solving them requires ingenuity.
Note that both issues and risks should be documented in any project for future references.
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