trad_risk_map

In organizational risk management, people use mostly one generic type for mapping risks in one or the other slightly modified or elaborated versions. This generic type can be seen in Figure 1.

We call this the traditional risk map, which uses a table format with two axes, one represents the likelihood that a risk occurs, the other the impact of a risk. Some people directly write the risks with textual descriptions into the cells, others use visual elements such as bubbles or points, and yet others sketch icons on a print out of the risk map (http://www.sketchacademy.com).

We think that these risk maps are simple and clear. However, they have also disadvantages, when it comes to discussing future scenarios and actions to mitigate the risks:

(1) The traditional maps are normally the RESULT of the work of the risk manager and does not necessarily show complete information, e.g. about recent developments which is only known to Senior Management.

(2) The visual format does not work very well as a tool for facilitating the PROCESS of evaluating, assessing and adjusting the risks, for example in a meeting with the senior management.

(3) The representation is rather analytical and abstract, and thus not useful to communicate risks to people with no university degree and to establish risk awareness within an organization. They do not inspire.

(4) The representation focuses on the risks but gives no information on how the risks are managed with related projects or actions.

Based on the lack of tools, which allow to link actions to risks, and which can be used in group settings we developed our Risk Visualization Method and our tool the Visual Manager, which allows switching between this traditional map and a new inspiring interactive map. After testing different metaphors, participants clearly preferred the Iceberg Metaphor (Fig. 2) the most. Especially, when they worked on a larger touch display. We also found out that people also wish to have a table view, which can be sorted. Hence, we have included this third view in our tool.

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Fig 2. The Iceberg Metaphor is used to depict a risk.

From the results from two dozen productive workshops, we can summarize that staff members who have no education in management or risk management like the intuitive interface with the visual metaphors, and the managers with such an education initially prefer the conservative mapping format but appreciate the interactive functionalities and metaphors once they started working with it. It was clear that everybody found the linking of actions to risks very useful.

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Fig 3. Traditional View in the Visual Manager.

In conclusion, the software Visual Manager adds these thoughts to the risk visualization discussion, namely adding actions to the risk map, and secondly to use visual metaphors to depict individual risks. We hope these two contributions will be discussed further by other researchers.