Assumptions are used to establish the project
environment and also to provide a basis for planning and
Assumptions are also defined as low-level risks.
Sometimes there is confusion regarding what is an
assumption and what is a risk.
the activity is within your control it is neither an
assumption nor a risk. It should simply go into your
Where you have no control over the activity, the
difference between an assumption and risk is whether you
think there is a high or low likelihood that an event
However, you should note that:
there is 100% chance of an event occurring, it is simply
there is a 0% chance of the event occurring, it is
Neither of these are risks or assumptions.
So for activities that are outside of
your control, how do you determine what should be an
assumption and what should be recorded as a risk?
There is a simple process for testing how risky
assumptions might be, and for recording them as a risk.
A simple IF-THEN statement can be written for each
assumption, in the form:
“IF this assumption proved to be false, THEN the effect
on the project would be …”
The IF side tests how likely the assumption is to be
unsafe, and the THEN side tests whether it matters.
Another way of describing this is to see the IF
statement as reflecting probability, whereas the
THEN phrase is about impact. And probability and
impact are the two sides of risk.
This simple approach can be used to turn project
assumptions into risks.
Where an assumption is assessed as likely to be false
and/or it could have an impact on one or more project
objectives, that assumption should be considered as a
the assumption is negative and there is a low
probability that it will happen, it can be stated as an
the event is positive and there is a high likelihood it
will happen, it is also an assumption.
type of Assumptions Analysis is a good way of
determining project-specific risks
Assumptions are made for most projects simply because,
at the time of planning or re-planning the full facts
are not known. The reasons for this can be:
The facts are not yet fully known or not yet
The Project may be dependent on the Deliverables or
outcomes from other projects, for example:
Delivery of a consultation document;
Production of new policy or guidance;
Purchasing certain goods or services;
Construction of new premises.
Example of some assumptions that would appear in the
project’s documents are:
Four staff working at 25% dedicated time.
Staff working hours are 8:00am-5:00pm.
Dedicated staff will remain in their current roles.
Dedicated staff will cross train one another.
Availability of Partner and Vendor staff as needed.
Replacement parts will be on site within four hours
New hardware is functional.
Project scope will not be modified.
Details of the assumptions and also the risks too,
should be recorded in the Project’s documents. This will ensure
that all parties who have a vested interest in the
project, are made aware of the assumptions and the risks
for the project. The Project Brief and the
Project Initiation Documents are where the assumptions
and risks are usually recorded.
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