Software Engineering-Risk Analysis and Management

Robert Charette [CHA89] presents a conceptual definition of risk:

First, risk concerns future happenings. Today and yesterday are beyond active concern, as we are already reaping what was previously sowed by our past actions. The question is, can we, therefore, by changing our actions today, create an opportunity for a different and hopefully better situation for ourselves tomorrow. This means, second, that risk involves change, such as in changes of mind, opinion, actions, or places . . . [Third,] risk involves choice, and the uncertainty that choice itself entails. Thus paradoxically, risk, like death and taxes, is one of the few certainties of life.

When risk is considered in the context of software engineering, Charette's three conceptual underpinnings are always in evidence. The future is our concern— what risks might cause the software project to go awry? Change is our concern— how will changes in customer requirements, development technologies, target computers, and all other entities connected to the project affect timeliness and overall success? Last, we must grapple with choices—what methods and tools should we use, how many people should be involved, how much emphasis on quality is "enough"?

Peter Drucker  once said, "While it is futile to try to eliminate risk, and questionable to try to minimize it, it is essential that the risks taken be the right risks." Before we can identify the "right risks" to be taken during a software project, it is important to identify all risks that are obvious to both managers and practitioners.
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