Qualitative and quantitative risk analysis are two very different processes. In this article we explain qualitative evaluation with an example taken from the video game industry.

In general, qualitative analysis seeks to identify risks by using scales that summarize visually and intuitively the relative dimensions of each risk, allowing to prioritize: providing a visual representation that combines the most basic factors, such as the impact that the risk would have on a project and the likelihood of it occurring.

In spite of its name, qualitative evaluation implies a numerical estimate of these two variables along previously defined scales using a quick and subjective approach. It's something like when doctors ask: From one to ten, how much does it hurt?wong-baker faces pain rating scale

Similarly to the intuitive scale of Wong-Baker's expressions, qualitative assessments of risk have visual translations in a geometric representation that allows a systematic comparison in risk assessment matrices.

In the example that follows, we have used our online risk assessment matrix to estimate the comparative weight of the following risks for a team of developers in a video game studio:

  • Inadequate graphics engine

  • Loss of programmers

  • Failure in approval process of the game build after submission

If we assign impact and probability values to these risks, we obtain the following table.




Graphics engine

20% 40


33% 50


8% 100

The table itself suggests some observations.

  1. Experience, the mother of probability

Firstly, in a video game studio that launches, say, half a dozen titles a year, after 10 years of activity there is a portfolio of 60 titles that allows to draw certain conclusions about the frequency with which these risks occur. The probability estimate is based on the experience of the organization, which has suffered personnel losses in the programming area in one out of three projects.

  1. Simplify and then discuss the details

This model simplifies factors in just two values, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the variables hide more complex realities that should appear in the quantitative phases and in the discussions with the stakeholders. For example, loss of talent can hide many different realities, depending on the number of people lost, their roles within the organization, or whether the loss is due to a transfer to another company, vacation, retirement or inability to hire according to the forecasts of the HR department.

With all these nuances, when we load the table into ITM Platform’s online risk assessment matrix we obtain this result:

Risk matrix videogame sector example

Although there is no single interpretation for this type of result, the visualization emphasizes that the most threatening risk for this study is the loss of personnel, while the selection of the graphics engine and certification seem to be more controlled by the workflow and process procedure. The HR department of the studio will probably need a mitigation plan in order to be able to face situations of personnel shortage in times of high load of work. Such a plan could include:

  • Reassignment of tasks to existing resources.

  • Segmenting possible delays, or cost increases in case the scope is maintained.

  • Communication plan to stakeholders involved in the tasks who may suffer because of the delays.

  • In severe cases, reconsideration of non-critical components that allow the viability of the product to be saved.

Remember that you can compose your own set of risks in ITM Platform’s online Risk Assessment Matrix. In addition, if you can register, save and share them with your team.

In the next article of this series, I will expand the example to the context of a quantitative evaluation to better understand the differences between the two approaches.


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business man smiling, ISO standards, buildings in backgroundWhy does ISO have two sets of standards on project management?

These two sets of standards are complementary, not interchangeable. There is one set for project management (21500) and another for quality management systems in the field of projects (10006). Neither of them is subject to certification. ISO 9001/2008 provides certification on issues corresponding to these standards.

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Now we are going to explain the difference between both:

  • ISO 10006/2003: is not a set of standards on project management.  It is a set of standards on quality management systems in projects. The purpose of these standards is to offer additional guidelines - not requirements - to companies that clarify issues related to technical management. ISO 10006/2003 focuses on the management system used to manage quality in projects and is very useful for strong parent companies that wish to adopt ISO 9001/2008 standards and obtain certification.
  • ISO 21500/2012: is a specific set of standards for project management.  It offers a guide - not a series of requirements - and is therefore not subject to certification. ISO 21500/2012 focuses on project management, processes and management areas, and coincides with such bodies of knowledge as PMBOK. It is useful for companies that wish to standardize and improve their project management.  It is interesting to note that the two sets of standards do indeed overlap at certain points - hence their complementary nature - regarding the manner in which a project should be managed (‘best practices’ under 21500 and ‘quality management system’ under 10006).  By applying and putting these standards into practice, all project-related work undertaken by an organization can be significantly improved.

The most immediate effect of ISO in project management is an emergence of global standards in this market due to an international agreement on project management principles and guidelines; in other words, organizations and professionals that manage and run projects are now able to use the same concepts and structures in their contractual and working relationships with clients, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders. This is facilitating the expansion of project-based businesses worldwide.  Hence, ISO-based project management provides companies with a strategic advantage.

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Another very important effect can be found in employment-related issues, because project management teams can be created or assembled under a contract that will comprise the definition of a scope or certain requirements, a set deadline, a forecast cost, a geographic area and the stakeholders involved. This implies the involvement of professionals from numerous specialized field and nationalities, requiring swift and temporary collaborations between groups. The flexibility, effectiveness and efficiency of these groups will depend on knowing and applying the management processes agreed upon globally under the ISO international standards on project management. In this regard, the education and training of professionals in project management skills gains additional importance as this might now refer to such professional certificates as the PMP® from the PMI® based on knowledge of the PMBOK Guide (Chapter 3 of which coincides with ISO 21500 by over 90%). ISO-based project management is an executive advantage for professionals who manage projects.

ISO Standards 10006 and 21500 relate to international knowledge, such as PMBOK, PRINCE2 and ICB3.0 on project management. They are not subject to certification but have also been included in knowledge standards that are subject to certification, such as ISO 9001/2008 and the PMP® from the PMI®.

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