when should a dependency be raised as a program risk

When Should a Dependency be Raised as a Program Risk?

When dependencies become the tipping point between success and failure, it’s time to raise them as program risks and navigate the path with strategic caution.

Dependencies are an integral part of any project or program, and they can significantly impact its success or failure. In the context of project management, dependency refers to the relationship between tasks or activities where the completion of one task depends on the successful completion of another. Identifying and managing dependencies is crucial to ensure smooth project execution and mitigate risks. In this article, we will explore when should a dependency be raised as a program risk –


In any complex program or project, dependencies are inevitable. They can arise due to various factors such as task interdependence, resource sharing, or sequential activities. While dependencies are a normal part of project management, they can also introduce risks that may impact the overall program’s success. It is essential to identify and manage these dependencies proactively to ensure smooth progress and minimize the potential for delays or failures.

Understanding Dependencies

Dependencies are the relationships between tasks or activities where the completion of one task relies on the completion of another. These relationships can be categorized into different types based on their nature and impact on project execution. Understanding the various types of dependencies is crucial for effective risk management.

Types of Dependencies

  • Finish-to-Start (FS): This is the most common type of dependency, where a task must finish before the next one can start.
  • Start-to-Start (SS): In this type of dependency, two tasks must start simultaneously or in a specific sequence.
  • Finish-to-Finish (FF): Here, two tasks must finish simultaneously or in a specific sequence.
  • Start-to-Finish (SF): This dependency type is relatively rare, where a task must start before another task can finish.

Impact of Dependencies on Project Success

Dependencies have a significant impact on project success. If not managed effectively, dependencies can lead to delays, resource constraints, increased project complexity, and even project failure. Therefore, it is crucial to identify, evaluate, and address dependencies throughout the project lifecycle to mitigate potential risks and ensure successful program delivery.

Identifying Dependencies

Identifying dependencies is a critical step in effective risk management. It involves understanding the relationships between tasks, activities, and stakeholders involved in the program. The following approaches can help in identifying dependencies:

Dependency Mapping

Dependency mapping involves visualizing the relationships between tasks and activities using tools like Gantt charts or network diagrams. By analyzing the flow of activities and their dependencies, project managers can identify critical paths and potential risks associated with dependencies.

Stakeholder Collaboration

Engaging stakeholders and team members in the identification process can provide valuable insights into dependencies that may not be immediately apparent. Collaboration ensures a comprehensive understanding of the program’s landscape and helps in uncovering hidden or overlooked dependencies.

Evaluating Dependency Risks

Once dependencies are identified, it is essential to evaluate their potential risks and prioritize them based on their criticality and stability. This evaluation helps in allocating resources, developing contingency plans, and making informed decisions throughout the program lifecycle.

Dependency Criticality

The criticality of a dependency refers to its impact on the overall program’s objectives and deliverables. Dependencies that have a higher impact on critical milestones or outcomes should be prioritized and managed more diligently to reduce the risk of failure.

Dependency Stability

Dependency stability assesses the reliability and predictability of the relationship between tasks. Unstable dependencies are more prone to changes and disruptions, increasing the program’s vulnerability to risks. Identifying and addressing unstable dependencies early on can prevent potential delays or bottlenecks.

When to Raise Dependencies as Program Risks

Not all dependencies need to be raised as program risks. However, certain scenarios warrant special attention. Here are some situations where dependencies should be considered as program risks:

Complexity and Interdependency

When the program involves numerous interdependent tasks or activities, the complexity increases, and the risk of delays or disruptions rises. In such cases, dependencies should be closely monitored and managed to avoid bottlenecks or failures.

Uncertainty and Lack of Control

If dependencies rely on external factors or stakeholders outside the program’s direct control, the risk of delays or non-compliance increases. Dependencies that are uncertain or beyond the program’s control should be raised as risks to ensure appropriate mitigation measures are in place.

Time Sensitivity

Dependencies that have strict time constraints and cannot afford delays should be treated as risks. Time-sensitive dependencies can significantly impact project schedules and may require special attention, contingency planning, or alternative solutions.

Resource Constraints

When dependencies rely on limited or constrained resources, there is a higher likelihood of resource bottlenecks or conflicts. In such cases, dependencies should be assessed as risks to ensure resource availability and prevent resource-related project delays.

Mitigating Dependency Risks

Once dependencies are raised as program risks, it is crucial to implement mitigation strategies to minimize their potential impact. The following approaches can help in mitigating dependency risks:

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders, team members, and dependencies owners can ensure smooth coordination and reduce the chances of misunderstandings or delays. Regular status updates, clear expectations, and transparent information flow are essential for successful risk mitigation.

Contingency Planning

Developing contingency plans for critical dependencies helps in preparing for potential disruptions or delays. These plans outline alternative actions or solutions to address risks promptly, minimizing their impact on the program.

Alternative Solutions

Identifying alternative solutions or workarounds for dependencies can provide flexibility and reduce dependency-related risks. Exploring different approaches or technologies can help in mitigating potential bottlenecks and ensure smoother program execution.


Dependencies play a vital role in program management, and their effective identification and management are crucial for project success. By understanding the different types of dependencies, evaluating their risks, and raising them as program risks when necessary, project managers can proactively mitigate potential delays, disruptions, or failures. Through communication, collaboration, contingency planning, and alternative solutions, dependency risks can be minimized, ensuring the smooth execution of programs.


  1. How do dependencies affect project timelines?

    Dependencies can significantly impact project timelines. If a dependent task is delayed or disrupted, it can cause a domino effect, delaying subsequent tasks and ultimately extending the project’s overall duration.

  2. Are all dependencies considered risks?

    Not all dependencies are considered risks. Only dependencies that have the potential to impact critical milestones, introduce uncertainties, or lead to resource constraints should be raised as program risks.

  3. Can dependencies be eliminated entirely?

    In most cases, dependencies cannot be completely eliminated. However, effective management and mitigation strategies can help in minimizing their impact and reducing the associated risks.

  4. How can stakeholder collaboration help in identifying dependencies?

    Stakeholder collaboration brings diverse perspectives and insights, helping to uncover dependencies that may be overlooked by a single individual. Collaborative discussions facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the program’s landscape and potential risks.

  5. What should be included in a contingency plan for dependencies?

    A contingency plan for dependencies should outline alternative actions, resources, or solutions that can be implemented if a dependency is delayed or disrupted. It should include clear guidelines, responsibilities, and timelines to ensure swift and effective risk mitigation.

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