Good risk analysis is about method, not about advanced digital tools

Be skeptical if someone promises you that risk analysis can be done by anyone as long as you buy a good digital tool.

A well-executed risk analysis requires specialist knowledge and experience. We often see that banal questions create challenges:

– What exactly is an event/incident?
– What is a cause?
– What is a consequence?

In a world increasingly reliant on advanced technology, the buzz surrounding cutting-edge digital tools often overshadows the timeless importance of a methodical approach in risk analysis. While sophisticated software and algorithms have undoubtedly enhanced our capabilities, the core of effective risk analysis lies not in the complexity of digital tools but in the soundness of the methods employed.

Understanding the Basics:

At its essence, risk analysis is about identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential risks that could impact an organization, project, or system. The temptation to rely solely on the latest digital tools can be alluring, given their promises of automation and predictive analytics. However, the foundation of a robust risk analysis is laid through a thoughtful and systematic methodology.

The human touch

Since the topic is risk, I hasten to point out that I considered it carefully before going for this cliché. When I still take the chance, it is to emphasize where in the process man beats machine. Yes, a tool offers a structure for mapping risk. Yes, there are many fine templates adapted to the individual industry – we use them ourselves all the time. Yes, you don’t have to write report after report. But when members of the project team see a potential risk in every paperclip in the office, while their manager doesn’t even acknowledge the lack of backup as a significant problem, all the fancy templates in the world don’t help. Then someone has to take the lead, address the problems, show human knowledge and separate the important from the unimportant. For your risk analysis tool to have value, you need to know the methodology behind the tool. You must have a good command of both tools and methodology.

Tailoring Methods to Context:

Every organization, industry, or project is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach seldom does justice to the intricacies involved. A methodical risk analysis recognizes the importance of tailoring methods to the specific context. This involves understanding the organization’s goals, its operating environment, and the nature of the risks it faces. Flexibility and adaptability in methodology are key to addressing the dynamic and evolving nature of risks.


Facilitating effective analysis processes requires experience – and you can get that. If you are going to do more analyzes in the company, you should invest time and resources to acquire that expertise. As your analyzes reach a satisfactory level of quality, you can go back to the first analyzes and improve them. If you are facing a project where a single analysis is to be done once, you need help from a facilitator. An important characteristic of the facilitator is to communicate the risk precisely and comprehensibly. The tool can help, but an experienced risk communicator sees connections and conveys how this risk picture has been arrived at.

Holistic Perspective:

Risk analysis is not merely a numbers game; it requires a holistic perspective that considers both quantitative and qualitative factors. While digital tools excel in processing quantitative data, they may struggle to capture the more nuanced qualitative aspects of risk. A comprehensive understanding of risk involves combining quantitative data with qualitative insights, creating a more accurate and well-rounded risk profile.

Communication and Collaboration:

A successful risk analysis is not an isolated endeavor. Effective communication and collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and decision-makers are crucial. A methodical approach emphasizes the importance of clear and concise communication, ensuring that the findings of the risk analysis are understood and actionable.

Don’t blame the tool

A good tool for risk analysis therefore does not solve the methodological challenges. It helps you structure your work, see the connections and follow them up with risk-reducing measures. When something has not worked optimally in the analysis or the surrounding communication, it is easy to blame the tool. But the quality of the analysis is closely linked to the facilitator’s competence. For that reason, one should also be careful not to give strong assessments of a risk analysis tool before one has led some analyzes oneself.

About the Author

Morgan Grindheim is a senior advisor at NSTAR AS. He is educated at the University of Stavanger and the Norwegian Police Academy and has worked with security, preparedness and crisis management for 15 years. He has led projects and been an advisor to both business and public sector within risk-based management of security and preparedness. He has also worked extensively with change management related to organization and building crisis management capabilities.

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