When trying to identify a vulnerability in cybersecurity, a qualitative risk assessment is one of the important tools you can use. Understanding what this type of risk analysis is and the impact it can have on your company is important. Let's look at a few things you should understand before doing a qualitative risk analysis.

What is a Qualitative Risk Assessment?

A qualitative risk assessment is an initial step in project risk management. It allows project managers to identify risks, rank them by likelihood of occurrence and impact, and select an action for each. It can be time-consuming when dealing with numerous threats; additionally, it relies on individual members' perceptions which makes the evaluation subject to bias; ultimately, this approach may miss certain project risks altogether.

Understanding qualitative risk assessments and their limitations will allow you to decide whether they suit your project. They’re  cost-efficient and time-saving compared with more complicated approaches; their results can easily be read and prioritized for easier team decision-making. Plus, they give clear direction as to where efforts should be put forth.

Qualitative risk analysis also offers another key benefit: they don't rely on guesstimating when and how often risks will emerge, saving project teams both time and energy spent predicting when, why, or how these may manifest themselves.

However, while this can be beneficial, a security assessment cannot provide metrics on overall potential risk exposure or how much mitigating those risks would cost. Therefore, to gain a complete picture of project risks, it's necessary to use quantitative risk analysis as well and do complete cybersecurity research.

When Should I Use a Qualitative Risk Assessment?

Qualitative risk analysis provides an efficient and straightforward method of identifying risks quickly and easily and is especially beneficial when dealing with non-project-related work. Due to their subjective, opinion-based nature, qualitative risk assessments rely on your team's knowledge and experience to assess risk impact and probability. Creating RAMs or rating level scales with a qualitative risk analysis allows for extensive customization to provide useful answers from team members.

At the outset of any qualitative risk analysis process lies the creation of a list of potential threats to a project, whether this involves brainstorming within your team or seeking input from stakeholders. Once you have an extensive list compiled, assign each threat a probability ranking according to how you want it assessed. Make sure that multiple people review every risk to get accurate results.

Once you know the probabilities for each risk, you can start prioritizing them according to likelihood and impact. This allows you to allocate resources efficiently toward developing risk treatments for those risks that pose the greatest threats; for instance, qualitative risk analysis could reveal that a lumber shortage could delay and overspend the budget.

Risk analysis is a fundamental aspect of any project and should be completed early on in its planning stage. Doing this will allow the project manager to identify any threats that can derail their work and take measures against them. Regular risk monitoring review will allow this crucial task to occur on schedule and successfully.

The Difference Between a Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis

As your project or business unfolds, risks that threaten its success may arise. You must know the difference between qualitative and quantitative assessments to address them effectively and ensure their ultimate success.

Qualitative assessments are subjective evaluations used to gauge the severity of risks by considering their impact and likelihood. Each potential risk will receive an assigned rating level, such as high, medium, or low, to prioritize risks more easily. Frequently this information is then communicated to stakeholders as an outstanding risk.

Qualitative assessments typically include expert judgment, brainstorming sessions, meetings, and risk evaluation matrices. However, these processes tend to take more time and labor, so they should only be employed on smaller projects.

Quantitative risk analysis is objective and based on verifiable data, often performed after performing a qualitative assessment and used to help understand its impact on your project. Quantitative risk management techniques include risk assessment matrix, impact diagrams, decision tree analysis, Monte Carlo simulation, and expected monetary value estimation.

A quantitative risk assessment offers greater accuracy and clarity than a qualitative assessment. Based on historical data to calculate the probability of risk events occurring and numerical values such as money, time, or lost assets to estimate their impacts, a quantitative risk assessment provides a more objective picture of threats faced and makes finding appropriate mitigation strategies easier.

Quantitative risk assessments are faster and more cost-effective than qualitative ones; they are typically used only for higher-priority risks as they're time and resource intensive. If your organization plans to build a refinery, using quantitative risk analyses to predict its timetable and costs would help determine how quickly things progress toward completion.

How Do You Conduct a Qualitative Risk Assessment?

Risk is an integral component of all projects, and its consequences can seriously impact their outcome. Project managers can better understand these threats to their projects by conducting a qualitative risk assessment. This process involves identifying, prioritizing, and documenting any threats to project goals with help from qualified stakeholders.

Qualitative risk analyses rely on the expertise of project managers and other members of their project management teams, who use their experience to understand the potential effects of risks while applying that knowledge to suit each unique circumstance of a project.

Once the project management team has identified all potential risks, they can prioritize them by comparing impact and likelihood. A high priority rating could be assigned for risks with high probabilities that have significant detrimental effects on the schedule or budget of their project.

One of the key objectives of qualitative analysis is to determine appropriate treatment plans for every threat by assessing how each threat can be addressed and creating plans to mitigate them. In addition, project managers must remember that risks change throughout a project's lifespan and regularly assess them again for any updates necessary.

How can RiskRecon help me?

When it's time to handle a qualitative risk analysis or any other type of project risk analysis, RiskRecon by Mastercard is the team you need. We know how to help you quickly  identify, assess, and manage risks. Check out our 30-day trial here.