Opportunity management - a forgotten chance?

Ansgar Toscha
10 maj 2016

Exploiting the upside of risk to the maximum has always been the wet dream of business leaders. Risk managers, on the contrary, have the reputation to focus too much on the downside of risk, pushing for controls and cumbersome analyses hampering quick-footed growth. This discrepancy is still reality in the majority of organizations and causes a lot of misunderstanding and unnecessary discussions about the purpose and value of risk management as a structured process.

Facing such discussion, risk managers' final desperate argument is often that managing risk in time and in an effective way sypports the organization to both build a stronger resilience against shocks and creates competitive advantage. In other words, successfully managing a risk may turn it into an opportunity. This view on approaching upside risk through managing downside risk is an important topic in PwC's "Risk in Review 2016" report that was published some days ago.

But there is not only the indirect way to pursue upside risk.

In discussions is often forgotten that there are already a large number (but yet too few) of organizations that already address opportunity directly by applying Opportunity management. Opportunity management applies the same process steps as risk management; identification, assessment, analysis, treatment and monitoring - but purely for opportunities, defined as e.g., possible events that might cause positive deviations from the plan.

Organizations use this process as a complement to their risk management process. Their aim is a balance between risk and opportunity management, both built on the same structure and language, and both equal parts of the enterprise risk management process. As a side-effect, risk management is easier to sell-in into the organization when combined with opportunity management which often is perceived being the less boring part.

As mentioned above, the opportunity management process is easy to be built into existing enterprise risk management processes. On that basis, here are some tips on how to implement the process:

  • The identification of opportunities might be easier taking existing SWOT-analysis documents as a starting point. Focus on strategic opportunities in the beginning and develop the process from there.
  • Use the same assessment model as for risk (impact, likelihood, control effectiveness etc.) even if some terms need to be adapted "to the positive side".
  • Consider creating both a risk and an opportunity map. But don't stop there! The charm of having both maps completing each other is to get deeper insights on their interconnections and how to manage these. Presenting and discussing these insights will be a great success in board and management meetings, and adds more value than just presenting the maps separately!

My experience is that Opportunity management is easy to implement when built on the existing risk management processes. And the best part of it; business leaders and risk managers will be more likely to share the same dream!