How Do You Track Product Development Risks?

There is no business growth without keeping in mind the ever-present chance of things going awry. That’s not pessimism – it’s realism. And that is why you should be prepared and aware of the risks lurking in product development.

And by being prepared, we mean tracking product development risks. That way, you can assess and address risks as early (and affordably!) as possible.

We prepared a neat and compact guide for product development risk mitigation by tracking the said risks. Let’s start, and by the end of this article, you’ll have the know-how to begin creating your own risk-mitigating monitoring process.

Why Are Tracking Product Development Risks Important?

The answer can be summed up in short – you’ll have better chances to make money and grow as a company.

But to break it down into smaller parts – there are so many things in product development that can derail your process. From financial problems, resourcing issues, and technological glitches to everything in between. And the nature of those problems can be both anticipated and unforeseen. 

Tracking product development risks are significant for several reasons. To name a few:

  • Mitigating product development risks
  • Efficiently solving problems when they pop up
  • Saving money, your reputation, and the motivation of your staff
  • Assessing and documenting the risks that popped up for future mitigating purposes

Frequent Product Development Risky Spots

Here are some often-seen risks in the product dev sphere. Knowing these is one of the first steps of knowing how to monitor them.

  • Requirements Documentation: If you didn’t pay enough attention to the requirements documentation, you risk a lot money-wise. You don’t want to find yourself midway in product development and realize that the product you’re developing isn’t relevant. And don’t even get us started on legal compliance!
  • The Silo Issue: When you lose the bigger picture from sight and spend too much time focused on one detail then you risk the whole process slipping from your hands. Never forget that the product development process is a puzzle that needs different pieces to make a whole picture! And, sometimes you need to take a step back to look at your half-made puzzle to know where you’re at.
  • Schedule Risks: Identify your important dates and the gaps that could plague them.
  • Total Cost: Again, concentrate on the bigger picture! Look at the total cost rather than the price to avoid short-sighted decisions.

Follow the FMEA Principle

The tried-and-true FMEA principle for mapping and weighing risk assessment is your best friend. Going risk-blind into any process that involves money and other people’s livelihood is a fool’s errand.

Thus, a responsible thing would be to perform the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). In a nutshell, the analysis is performed by looking at a product, assessing the various ways the product can diverge from success and the effects of those unfortunate situations.

When assessing the effects of a failure, categorize your findings into three groups – the effects on the customer, the product, and the manufacturer.

A practical way to make FMEA work for you in product development is to assemble a broad team to perform a development (and/or design) review. A broad team is important because you need people of different experience levels, from different sectors, and simply because a pair of fresh eyes can always do wonders when it comes to problem-spotting.

The team you assemble should conduct individual design reviews and then come together. In their session(s) together, they should brainstorm to list all of the product’s potential problem spots. It seems like a tedious process because it is – each item listed should be thoroughly analyzed. The two things to assess in a potential problem spot are:

  • The possibility of the failure happening.
  • The severity of the potential risk if it is realized.

When those two intersect, you can better assess if the risk in question is an occasional one, or a frequent one. And when it comes to the severity, bear in mind that some issues are in the “red zone” – if they happen, the consequences are catastrophic. But there are, of course, less severe consequences, like critical ones, and marginal ones. If you’re unsure who to include in your FMEA team and where to begin in general, product development consultancy serves as a great guiding hand in times of need (and risk).

Add an “At Risk” Label to Your Workflow Platform

ClickUp, Jira, and other workflow platforms grant you the option of adding custom labels to your items. Adding an “At Risk” label to initiatives, releases, and features that are, well, at risk helps establish a consistent method for tracking product development risks lurking in your company.

If you’re using a workflow platform that doesn’t allow custom labels, there is surely the option of adding custom fields that will let you add a field for “Notes.” There, you can tag whoever needs to be notified of the risk status and leave a note for them that the item in question needs special attention. 

If your workflow platform doesn’t allow custom labels then, well – you should think about using another platform.

Collect Early Feedback

Collecting early feedback is an understated way of monitoring risks. The agile principle is beloved because it gave way to the wise method of going through a few small interation rounds rather than one big round – it gives you a chance to refine your product much better.

And the same logic can be used for monitoring risk and collecting feedback. A great advice is to involve both customers and developers. And yes, some people will tell you that collecting feedback from developers working on the project is a big no-no. But think about it – why should you ignore what experts working on the product have to say? Get a broad enough team to gather feedback from – and you’ll get different perspectives on what could go wrong and why.

That gives you a list of things to add to your existing FMEA list.

Final Word

The more unpredictability and risk you reduce before a project launches, the better.

Even though success is never secured, minimizing your risk will help you stay afloat if your endeavor doesn’t catch on.

Remember, if you fail at the beginning, you can keep trying until you succeed.


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