No business is short on challenging instances in its quest to accelerate development, especially in its early stages. To thrive against all odds, startups and enterprises must carefully navigate through treacherous waters, identifying and steering clear of perils as they present themselves. When managing risks that come with business ventures gets tedious, having a risk breakdown structure in your project managing toolkit can be a powerful asset. 

Learn the significance of risk breakdown structure in project management and how you can create your own risk breakdown structure template. 

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What Is Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS) in Project Management? 

A risk breakdown structure (RBS) is like a chart that arranges project risks from most serious to least serious and from most likely to least likely. These risks are grouped based on their type, which helps make sure we think about all the different possibilities.

It presents written documentation of all risks in a structured manner. Similar to Work Breakdown Structure, Risk Breakdown Structure in project management gives a medium to the project manager to organize potential risks that must be tracked and addressed. 

RBS comprises different levels from 0 to 4, each representing

  • Level 0: The Project Name
  • Level 1: The Category of the Risk
  • Level 2: The risk
  • Level 3: The actual risk
  • Level 4: The detailed risk description

For instance, for a bike purchase, the different levels of risk breakdown structure will be as follows:

Level 0

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4





Loan Denial

The loan application can be denied due to a low credit score. 




Buying an old bike may not be reliable as it may require frequent repair. 


Paint Damage

An old bike may have paint damage.

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Risk Breakdown Structure in Project Management: Risk Scoring

Initially, you begin by categorizing project risks. For instance, we have four categories: technical, organizational, external, and project management. Next, we will subcategorize each of these categories. 

Once we have identified and categorized all possible risks, it's time to prioritize them in a sequence so that allocating resources toward risk mitigation gets easier. 

PMI has proposed a P-I risk-scoring method that relies on probability (P) and impact (I). 

  • P denotes the probability of risk occurrence:
    • High probability (80% ≤ x ≤ 100%)
    • Medium-high probability (60% ≤ x)
    • Medium-low probability (30% ≤ x)
    • Low probability (0%)
  • 'I' denotes the impact of the risk:
    • High: catastrophic (rating A - 100)
    • Medium: critical (rating B - 50)
    • Low: marginal (rating C - 10)

This P-I method calculates the risk score by multiplying Probability and Impact. The following risk breakdown structure example grid represents the risk scoring method as suggested by PMI.



1=High (80%<=x<=100%)

2 = Medium High (60%<=x<=80%)

3 = Medium Low (30%<=x<=60%)

4 = Low (0%<x<30%) 

A = High (Rating 100)

Exposure - Very High (Score 100)

Exposure - Very High (Score 80)

Exposure - High (Score 80)

Exposure - Moderate (Score 30)

B = Medium 

(Rating 50)

Exposure - High (Score 50)

Exposure - Moderate (Score 40)

Exposure - Moderate (Score 30)

Exposure - Low (Score 15)

C = Low 

(Rating 10)

Exposure - Low (Score 10)

Exposure - Low (Score 8)

Exposure - Low (Score 6)

Exposure - Low (Score 3)


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Creating a Risk Breakdown Structure Template 

  • Start by figuring out the major risk categories that match your project or industry. For example, if you're working on a software project, categories might include things like development environment, product engineering, and program constraints.

  • Similarly, if you're dealing with construction projects, categories might be environment, client, industry, and project.

  • Once you've got your categories, break them down into smaller subcategories. It's a good idea to do this with your team by brainstorming together.

  • After you've set up the categories and subcategories, it's time to evaluate the risks. But always be ready to adjust the risk breakdown structure to fit the specific risks of each project.

What Are the Advantages of a Risk Breakdown Structure?

A risk breakdown structure in project management has the following benefits both for the project manager and the organization: 

  • Promotes discovery of new risks: It increases the chances of potential risk suggestions from the team when a project manager presents the risk break structure. 
  • Categorizes the project risks: It helps give a more ordered and complete view of the risks involved with a given project. Categorizing makes it simpler to discover the risk dependencies.
  • Easier to understand: The breakdown structure representation makes it easier to understand risks. 
  • Quicker allocation of resources: It facilitates a more appropriate allocation of resources and plans for the impacts of identified risks.

Why Is Risk Assessment Important?

  1. Identifying Risks: Recognizing potential issues in your business is crucial. Some risks are obvious, but hidden ones can be the most harmful.

  2. Assessing Nature and Severity: Once identified, it's important to understand the nature and seriousness of each risk. This helps you gauge how likely they are to occur and what their impact could be.

  3. Managing Impact: Risks can range from minor inconveniences to catastrophic events. Failing to assess risks properly can have a significant negative impact on your projects.

  4. Leveraging Positive Risks: Some risks can actually have positive effects, like improving or speeding up your project. Proper assessment at the right time can help you take advantage of these opportunities.

Risk Prioritization Methods

Risk prioritization follows risk assessment. It helps classify high and low-risk events. For instance, in an IT project, a data breach and loss of critical operations is a high-risk event, while a minor budget overrun is a low-risk event. 

Project managers must focus on prioritizing risks with high likelihoods and high impacts, taking the help of prioritization methods. A risk matrix is one of the most effective tools for risk prioritization. 

Risk Matrix: It allows you to create a chart of each risk by likelihood and severity. This visual method provides insight into an organization's risks and their overall seriousness and probability.  

The likelihood of risks is charted on the Y-axis, while the severity of their implications is on the X-axis. When each axis is scaled up from low to high, the risk landing in the upper right corner is the one with the highest probability and deserves the highest priority.

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Risk Management Structure in project management is a promising technique that equips you with responsible handling of the risks that imperil your company's future. Learn more such tools and techniques with Simplilearn's PGP Project Management Course and get future-ready by boosting your digital-age project leader journey!

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