Risk Analysis in Software Testing | What is it & How to do?

April 16, 2024Ritika Kumari
web application testing

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Software testing needs time and skill. Most testers work on a deadline and follow a series of test steps to mark a product deployment ready. But among the several features you have, how do you know where to start the testing process? The most common practice is to work according to different testing approaches—Analytical, model-based, methodical, risk-based testing, and more. 

For this blog, the focus will be entirely on the risk-based approach in software testing. You will learn about risk analysis in software testing and all its nuances by the end of this.

What is Risk Analysis in Software Testing?

Risk analysis in software testing is the process of identifying and assessing potential risks and uncertainties associated with software. It involves evaluating the likelihood and impact of various risks to determine how they might affect the project’s quality, schedule, and budget. The primary objectives of risk analysis in testing are to prioritize risks, develop mitigation strategies, and make informed decisions to ensure the successful delivery of a high-quality software product.

Why Perform Risk Analysis in Software Testing?

Every software undergoes frequent updates with new technologies and changing customer requirements. However, such revisions often bring new and advanced vulnerabilities to the system, increasing the risks within the software products. This requires you to discover, rectify, and prevent further risks in the system, which is where risk analysis comes in handy. 

Risk analysis is highly helpful in cases when certain changes in the software contribute to the increased risk:

  • Complex software systems
  • Frequent changes or poorly defined requirements
  • When software interfaces with other systems or components
  • Security risks, such as data breaches and vulnerabilities
  • Inaccurate or missing data
  • Issues related to user interfaces, user experience, and accessibility

Keeping an eye out for these situations is critical to avoid missing out on issues present in the software.

Risk Analysis Overview

Let’s look at the overview of the risk analysis before diving into the technical aspects of the subject.

Risk Analysis Requirements

There are a few requirements that need to be met before your risk analysis can be successful. We list some of them for your reference:

  • Risk Identification: A thorough examination of the project to identify all possible risks, including technical, operational, and business-related risks.
  • Risk Assessment Metrics: A standardized method for evaluating the likelihood and potential impact of each risk.
  • Risk Prioritization Criteria: A defined set of criteria for prioritizing risks based on their severity, likelihood, and potential consequences.
  • Risk Mitigation Strategies: Clear strategies for mitigating or reducing the impact of identified risks.
  • Risk Monitoring Procedures: A system for continuous monitoring and tracking of identified risks throughout the project’s lifecycle.
  • Risk-Driven Testing Strategies: Incorporation of risk-based testing into the test strategy to focus testing efforts on the highest-priority risks.

Possible Scenarios of Risk Occurrence

Multiple scenarios contribute to the occurrence of risks in a system. Understanding the concepts of Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns is essential for comprehending the possible scenarios of risk occurrence in software testing and project management. These categories help categorize and plan for different types of risks:

  • Known Knowns:

These represent well-understood risks and expected challenges. Examples include documented requirements, established testing procedures, and anticipated technical issues. Known knowns can be addressed through systematic testing and adherence to best practices.

  • Known Unknowns:

Known unknowns are the identified risks and uncertainties that require further investigation and planning. They encompass aspects like integration challenges, potential performance bottlenecks, or dependencies on third-party components with unverified characteristics.

  • Unknown Unknowns:

Unknown unknowns are the unpredictable and unexpected risks that may surface without prior knowledge. They often include unforeseen defects, sudden changes in market conditions, or previously unidentified security vulnerabilities. While it’s impossible to plan for these risks directly, a flexible and adaptive testing approach, coupled with a resilient project management mindset, can help respond to them when they emerge.

Types of Software Risk

While several scenarios exist to give rise to risk occurrences, they fall into varying categories as per what they affect. Software risks can manifest in various forms, and understanding these types of risks is crucial for effective risk management in software development.

Technical Risks

As per its name, technical risks consist of complex and often uncertain defects in design, functionality, system performance, and data. It encompasses all the technical aspects of a project, from challenges arising from software complexity and new or unproven technologies to integration difficulties, performance bottlenecks, and security vulnerabilities.

Schedule and Resource Risks

It includes risks associated with project scheduling and resource allocation, including constraints on resources (such as hardware and human resources), changes in project scope, tight deadlines, and dependencies on third-party components or services.

Operational Risks

Any risk arising from operational aspects of a project, including potential operational failures (e.g., lack of disaster recovery plans), differences between testing and production environments, and geographical factors affecting data centers, come under this type.

Business Risks

Business risks are risks arising from changes in market conditions, economic factors affecting budget or funding, and competitive forces influencing the project’s success.

Organizational Risks

These are the risks related to changes in project or team leadership and team dynamics, including conflicts and communication issues.

External Risks

It consists of risks associated with external factors, including third-party risks linked to vendors or services outside the project team’s direct control.

Levels of Risk

When you think of levels of risk, the low, moderate, and high terms come to mind. However, in the real software testing scenario, the risk level is determined by two dimensions: probability and impact.

Probability: It measures the likelihood of an event occurring, typically expressed as a percentage or qualitative scale. It answers the question: “How likely is it to happen?” It ranges from 0 to 100%. The probability can never be 0% because it indicates that there is no risk, and it can never be 100% as it indicates that it is no longer a risk but a certainty.

Impact: Risk, by default, brings a negative impact to any project. It assesses the consequences or severity of an event, usually quantified in monetary, temporal, or qualitative terms. It answers the question: “What would be the extent of its effect?”

By taking into account these two factors, you can calculate the level of the risk:

Level of Risk in Software = Probability of Risk Occurring  X Impact of the occurred risk

Thereafter, based on the final result, the risks are classified as low, moderate, and high. Let’s look at an example. Suppose a critical module of software relies on a third-party library known for occasional security vulnerabilities. Below is the assessment:

Risk Assessment:

Probability: You estimate a 20% probability of a security breach happening due to past incidents with the library.

Impact: A security breach could result in data exposure and significant financial losses, potentially leading to a project delay.

Risk Level Calculation:

Probability (20%) x Impact (High) = Risk Level (High)

In this case, the calculated risk level is “High,” indicating that this risk warrants immediate attention and robust mitigation strategies, such as thorough security testing, monitoring for library updates, and considering alternative libraries.

As the risk probability and impact vary, so does the risk level. Read this blog to understand more.

How to Perform Risk Analysis in Software Testing?

Risk analysis is a highly critical aspect that causes any software to lose its quality and credibility if not done right. Developers and testers often analyze the source code and the corresponding front-end features to understand the interactions between different components. All this review results in identifying risks and figuring out the mitigation process.

Risk analysis is a 3-step process:

Identify the Risks

First, you need to identify the risk, which comes in several forms. The main two classifications are project risk and product risk.

Project risks are associated with uncertain scenarios that can impact the project’s progress. Product risks refer to the possibility that the system might fulfill certain customer expectations or might fail to work as intended. Understanding these risk types and classifying the identified risks accordingly will help you to move toward the right solution. For more context, focus on segmenting risks as per their type, which we have discussed above.

One example of this could be that the Simply Travel site lacks sufficient security functions. This risk would be a product and technical risk.

Analyze the Impact of the Risk

A risk’s impact is determined as per how much damage it could do to the system. A security risk is certainly a huge red flag. Yet, we need to analyze the impact by calculating the levels of the risks. For this, we need probability and impact value. Both these parameters range within High, Medium, and Low values. The security risk discussed in the above example would be awarded a High value for probability and impact, making it an immediate threat to the system. Based on this classification, you would need to look for a solution urgently. Let’s look at a few more possible risks and classify them accordingly for a broader understanding:

RiskProbabilityImpactRisk level/Priority
Insufficient human resources for the projectHigh (3)High (3)High (9)
Testing environment lacking similar features as the production environmentMedium (2)High (3)Medium (6)

Missing the deadline of the project or overlooking proper testing will have a certain impact on the overall product, as shown in the table above.

Formulate and Implement Risk Mitigation Measures

Risk mitigation comes in varying forms as per the identified risks and the decision of the people involved. Project managers ideate and formulate strategies to resolve the risks. They can go with a range of options, including avoiding the risks, looking for a solution, transferring the risks to other resources, or planning to contain it with sufficient resources/budget. In parallel, proper documentation and monitoring of the risk is necessary to keep it within control.

Now that you have a practical idea about risk analysis let’s see how Testsigma helps you do that. Suppose you are checking the UI of this site. Upon adding the necessary inputs, such as Origin, Destination, and Date of Departure, as per the expectation, a list of all the available flights must be displayed. 

Risk mitigation measures

This is how the Testsigma test case would like to perform these steps:

Risk analysis

Here, we have added the origin as Los Angeles, the destination as Washington DC, and the date as 31st Oct, 2023. To learn how to write test steps using pre-existing NLP commands in Testsigma, go through this comprehensive guide on how to write test cases.

This is what you can expect the risk analysis report to look like:

FunctionalityChanges MadeImpacted AreasRisk Assessment
Input necessary fieldsAdded place and date for one-way flightSearch flight functionalityThe input fields might not work as intended
List down available flightsFilter updated to show only refundable flightsThe flight display list and booking optionThe list may show fully booked or canceled flights

Based on what the risk is, you can calculate the probability and impact of the risk to prioritize it properly and work on its resolution.

Best Practices for Software Risk Analysis

Performing effective risk analysis in software testing is crucial for identifying and mitigating potential issues. Here are nine best practices to follow:

  • Start risk analysis during project initiation. Identify and document potential risks and uncertainties as early as possible.
  • Consider technical, operational, and business-related risks. Ensure you have a holistic view of potential issues.
  • Categorize risks by type (technical, schedule, operational, etc.) to facilitate better risk management and prioritization.
  • Conduct regular risk reviews at various project stages, including planning, execution, and closure.
  • Develop clear and actionable mitigation plans for high-risk items.
  • Define criteria for assessing and categorizing risks, including probability, impact, and risk levels (low, medium, high).

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Key Takeaway

Risk analysis testing is essential for any software development process. Aimlessly developing and testing the product results in missing out on critical areas that are prone to higher risks. With proper analysis, you can prioritize the mitigation process using the right measures and tools. We discuss all of this in the blog and more for you to begin the risk assessment procedure as you start developing any application.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are examples of software risks?

Software development projects can face a wide range of risks, which can vary depending on the project’s complexity, technology, and industry. Here are some common examples of software risks:

  • Technical Risks: Complexity, new tech, integration issues, performance bottlenecks, data problems, security vulnerabilities.
  • Schedule and Resource Risks: Limited resources, scope changes, time constraints, and dependencies.
  • Operational Risks: Failures, environment disparities, and geographical factors.
  • Usability Risks: Poor interface, accessibility issues, and user expectation mismatch.
  • Compliance Risks: Non-compliance and data privacy concerns.
  • Business Risks: Market shifts, economic factors, and competition.

Is risk analysis part of testing?

Risk analysis is an integral part of the software testing process. It involves identifying, assessing, and managing potential risks that may impact the testing and the overall project. By conducting a risk analysis, testing teams can prioritize their efforts, allocate resources effectively, and develop mitigation strategies to address potential issues that could affect the quality and success of the software being tested.

What is risk analysis and risk matrix in software testing?

Risk analysis involves identifying, assessing, and managing potential risks that could impact testing projects. A risk matrix is a visual tool that prioritizes risks based on their likelihood and impact. It simplifies risk communication, aiding in decision-making by highlighting high-priority risks that require immediate attention and mitigation.

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