Mitigation Plan, Contingency Plan, Fallback Plan and Work Around

Some people might be still confused on the differences between Mitigation Plan, Contingency Plan, Fallback Plan and Work Around in terms of their meaning and purpose. These terminologies are always being used in Project Risk Management Activity especially in risk response planning. Based on PMBOK 6th Edition, the plan risk process is preceded by Plan Risk Management, Identify Risk, Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis and Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis processes. And this is the final process of risk management activities in the planning stage, before moving forward to execution stage.

Let’s take a look further on their differences:

  • Mitigation Plan:
    When you want to avoid certain risk from materialised, it is imperative for you to come out with your plan to either mitigate (reduce impact or likelihood or both) the risk or to prevent the risk totally (100%) in the risk register. Most of the time, you will try to mitigate first, before the risk event happens, since prevention is quite impossible.

    For example, if you are an IT vendor who is planning to conduct UAT with your client’s participants, there is a possibility that the network connection between everyone’s laptop and the tested server might be accidentally blocked due to blocking at client’s firewall or in any other nodes. This will cause delay in the project delivery. So, to mitigate this problem, you need to conduct a meeting with client’s Project Manager and IT Admins to ensure that planned UAT session is being informed earlier and the connection is properly established at least 2 hours prior to the UAT session, with the hope that there is no network problem during UAT.
  • Contingency Plan
    Contingency plan is needed when the mitigation plan fails to solve the expected risk and the risk has turn into an issue. It is just like the back-up plan for the mitigation plan.

    For example, after having a meeting with client’s Project Manager and IT Admins, you expect that the UAT will run smoothly. However, during the UAT session, after getting confirmation from the client’s IT admin, all participants’ laptops are still not able to connect with the server. Something might have gone wrong. Luckily you have discussed about Contingency Plan with the client’s Project Manager and IT Admins in the same meeting. In this case, both you and client’s admin are well prepared to have a joint troubleshooting session within one hour, to detect and solve the problem.
  • Fallback Plan:
    Fallback Plan is actually the contingency plan for the previous contingency plan.

    For example, of the joint troubleshooting session is still not able to solve the network problem, then, based on your Fallback plan agreed with the client’s PM and IT Admin, you will have a UAT session with your client’s participants at the Data Centre instead, where the server is located. At least the feature and functions of the software can be tested first while solving the network problem. In certain occasion, you can have more than one Fallback plan for a certain risk.
  • Work Around:
    Work Around is an activity that you have not planned before in order to mitigate or solve any unknown risk (risk which is not even in a risk register at the first place) that has become issue. Another word for this is Fire Fighting. Work Around or Fire Fighting must be minimized as much as possible in a project since it uses a lot of resources and susceptible to error.

    For example, when you decided to conduct the UAT session in the Data Centre due to unsolved network issue, suddenly you find that the software installed in the server, is not acting normally, due to unknown persistent bugs. Since this is not identified in the risk register before, therefore you have to come out with Work Around plan to solve the problem to avoid upsetting the UAT participants. Then immediately you call up your expert in the office to come down to data centre urgently, to help to solve the bugs. In this emergency case, everybody needs to give priority to solve problems that can impact the project baselines.

The differences must be well understood so that you would be able to communicate effectively with all stakeholders. This can help you and the project team to formulate the risk response together in the holistic manner, with the support of the relevant stakeholders.

Rosli Bakri, PMP, PMI-RMP, PRINCE2