A note on Microsoft Project PERT and risk matrix terminology

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Microsoft Project uses the terms pessimistic, expected, and optimistic. Expected usually means the duration you originally estimated without concern for risk. Optimistic means the risk and impact are low and you think you might be able to "beat" the expected—you are optimistic about it. Pessimistic means that the risk and impacts are high and you don't think you will be able to "make" the expected duration—you are pessimistic about the expected duration based on risk.

In the risk matrix you use the terms high, medium, and low for risk rankings. In general, high is over 50% probability and high severity; medium is less than 50% probability and moderate severity; and low is less than 10% probability and low impact.

Here is a table comparing the terms from risk matrix and PERT analysis.

Risk ranking in risk matrix High (risk severity is high and probability is high that it will happen)

Microsoft Project terminology Pessimistic (duration reflects concern based on probability that risk will occur and will have major adverse impacts and will slip the schedule)

Medium (risk is moderate and impact not so severe)

Expected (original estimate of duration without considering risk, unless there is a reason to change it)

Low (risk is low and impact low even if it occurs)

Optimistic (duration reflects low risk and therefore "hope" that the risks can be controlled by contingency plans and the task can be completed quicker than expected)

■ Task linkages are also reviewed to generate more concurrency in the work, more parallel tasks and interdependencies.

■ Off-load or outsource activities that are slipping in order to assure more control. This activity involves sharing the risk of delayed work with contractors or partners and creating contractual incentives to bring the work back to plan.

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