Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 17 Number 4 2001 pp. 5-36

Identifying Software Project Risks: An International Delphi Study

Schmidt, Roy, Lyytinen, Kalle, Keil, Mark, and Cule, Paul

ABSTRACT: Advocates of software risk management claim that by identifying and analyzing threats to success (i.e., risks) action can be taken to reduce the chance of failure of a project. The first step in the risk management process is to identify the risk itself, so that appropriate countermeasures can be taken. One problem in this task, however, is that no validated lists are available to help the project manager understand the nature and types of risks typically faced in a software project. This paper represents a first step toward alleviating this problem by developing an authoritative list of common risk factors. We deploy a rigorous data collection method called a "ranking-type" Delphi survey to produce a rank-order list of risk factors. This data collection method is designed to elicit and organize opinions of a panel of experts through iterative, controlled feedback. Three simultaneous surveys were conducted in three different settings: Hong Kong, Finland, and the United States. This was done to broaden our view of the types of risks, rather than relying on the view of a single culture--an aspect that has been ignored in past risk management research. In forming the three panels, we recruited experienced project managers in each country. The paper presents the obtained risk factor list, compares it with other published risk factor lists for completeness and variation, and analyzes common features and differences in risk factor rankings in the three countries. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for both research and improving risk management practice.

Key words and phrases: Delphi technique, IS project risk management, IS risk management, risk assessment