Project management is about organizing all the moving parts. To assemble a productive and seamless workflow, you must first identify and track risks, activities, decisions, and more. This empowers the team to address challenges before they result in the initiative’s derailment or failure.

For this reason, project managers use many tools during the planning phase to document all aspects of the work. One of the simplest and most effective is the RAID log.

What’s a RAID log?

In project management, a RAID log is a monitoring and tracking tool that records potential risks and issues, activities or assumptions, and decisions or dependencies. It organizes this information into a convenient format to provide stakeholders with real-time status reports and document solutions to problems that can improve future project planning efforts.

The RAID acronym stands for:

1. Risk

Any foreseeable problem that has the potential to adversely impact a project’s execution is considered a risk. Identifying potential risks during the planning phase is essential to implementing mitigation measures proactively. Having the tools and solutions already in place can reduce the likelihood of minor inconveniences becoming big problems, saving you time, money, and resources.

If you’ve already built a risk register, you can use it to create your RAID log. Document potential issues and, most importantly, who’s responsible for addressing them. As the project progresses, you can also use the “R” section of the log to record any unanticipated problems as they occur and note how your team responds to them. Once work is complete, you can use this information to improve the project planning process for your next undertaking.

2. Actions or assumptions

Depending on your project, the “A” section includes either:

  • Actions: When you’re actively managing numerous moving parts and dependencies.
  • Assumptions: When you’re working on a long-term project that requires significant planning.

Actions are tasks that your team must deliver to complete the project. Compile the items into a list and identify the party responsible for executing each task. As the project manager, you must monitor the status of the action list throughout the project’s life cycle to ensure tasks are complete and work is progressing on schedule.

You can’t anticipate every hiccup in a project. But based on either experience or expertise, you can use assumptions to anticipate events that are likely to happen and plan for them. If something unexpected occurs — like a roadblock or previously unidentified risk — your team can identify its root cause by retroactively determining which assumption was invalid.

3. Issues

The thing to remember when discussing project risks versus issues is that a risk is an identified event that might occur. On the other hand, when an unexpected event does occur and stands to negatively impact progress, it’s considered an issue.

Tracking issues and your team’s response in your RAID log is vital to the health of your project. Your solution might unexpectedly impact other aspects of the work, and knowing the source can help your team quickly address any subsequent problems before they snowball out of control.

4. Decisions or dependencies

Choosing which “D” to use depends on your project management style. If you’re using an agile framework, you track the decisions leading to a solution to facilitate iteration. In the waterfall method, you identify tasks that depend on another’s completion before moving forward. Tracking these dependencies helps you identify priorities, provide visibility, and prevent bottlenecks.

How to use a RAID log

You can create a RAID log in its simplest form by dividing a piece of paper into quadrants and filling in each section (“R” through “D”). However, your document will be most effective when you store the information in a centralized, accessible location with other mission-critical files like the project plan, business case, and scope statement.

To draft an effective and thorough RAID log, follow this four-step process:

1. Establish your format

Decide what information you’ll track — assumptions or actions, decisions or dependencies — and the best format to do so. Some popular options are a simple text document, a spreadsheet, or project management software. Whichever you choose, ensure it’s accessible to stakeholders and team members.

2. Discuss and plan

Consult with your team to:

  • Identify potential risks, how to mitigate them, and who’s responsible
  • Define assumptions and their impact
  • Create an “Action” list of the project’s deliverables (if relevant)
  • Locate project dependencies and their repercussions

By being proactive, you can build awareness that mitigates risks and curtails the effects of potential issues before they occur.

3. Review and update

Your RAID log is only as good as the data it contains. Maintain its accuracy by regularly reviewing and updating its contents. Add information about issues and their solutions, and make sure the “Action” and “Decision” lists are current. Check off completed entries and add any new items resulting from new problems.

4. Conduct a post-mortem

Once the project is complete, hold a retrospective meeting with the team and stakeholders. Using the contents of the RAID, report and review successes, lessons learned, and opportunities for improvement.

RAID log best practices

Like any tool, a RAID log is only as productive as you make it. While it’s a fairly simple undertaking, incorporating some best practices can help you get the most out of your RAID log.

  • Factor in evidence: Make decisions based on prior experience, expertise, and data to improve the accuracy of your predictions.
  • Consult with others: Building a RAID log is a cooperative process. Speak with team members about their past work and gain insight into their skills and capacities. Seek expert advice and guidance, then use all this information to create your document.
  • Use a template: Create and refine a RAID log template to suit your team’s needs. This establishes a consistent experience for your group and speeds up the onboarding of new project managers.

Pros and cons of using a RAID log

Whether or not you require a RAID log for your next project is up to you. Does the initiative come with serious risks? Is the size of the project compatible with a log? Is your team equipped to navigate the RAID process? To make an informed decision, it’s important to understand both the pros and cons of this project management tool.

Adding a RAID log to your project management toolbox has many benefits:

  1. Stokes strategic thinking: Creating a RAID log forces you to take a calculated approach to every aspect of your project. You must think about what you need to accomplish while taking proactive steps to ensure the process goes smoothly.
  2. Promotes cataloging: A RAID document encourages you to log project information into one central location. For every risk identified and decision made, there’s a record documenting cause and effect, allowing you to track each change and revisit strategy later.
  3. Simplifies planning: By documenting project processes, changes, and decisions, you always have a current view of work and progress. After delivering the project, you can look back at your choices and learn from them, using the data to inform future project plans.
  4. Spurs organization: Your RAID log centralizes information. Stakeholders and project team members can quickly find who’s responsible for which tasks, examine project progress, and pinpoint current challenges simply by looking in the appropriate section.

While practical and effective, there are some potential downsides you need to consider when implementing a RAID log as part of your project management process:

  1. Needs support: You can’t consider your RAID log the single source of truth for your work. While it does track important information, it doesn’t capture the project’s specific details. You must use a more thorough document, like the project plan, to provide granular-level analysis.
  2. Requires constant updates: Large projects require ongoing maintenance, increasing the amount of time you spend monitoring and updating your RAID log. Over long periods, this can become a time-consuming and bothersome chore.
  3. Adds clutter: If you document every small decision, your RAID log can become overloaded, making it difficult to track and locate important data. It’s essential to work with stakeholders and team members to determine the appropriate level of detail before you begin. Including only necessary information improves accessibility and referencing speed.

RAID log example

The best way to understand how a RAID log functions is to see one at work. If you’ve never built a RAID log, here’s an example of a general document you can use as a template:

Raid category Description Impact Owner Priority
Risk Bottlenecks because of a simultaneous project requiring overlapping resources Delays to project schedule Martin, Jasmine Critical
Assumption Maintenance team is equipped to repair equipment Mohammed Moderate
Risk Old manufacturing machinery breaks down Postponement of project end date Martin, Jasmine High
Issue Unimplemented maintenance plan Jerome Moderate
Issue Undefined material procurement policies Nancy Negligible
Issue Third-party vendor data is outdated Jerome Low
Dependency Legal team must sign off on contract before it goes to client Mohammed Critical

Stay on track with Roadmunk by Tempo

While it’s impossible to foresee every possible hiccup, project management tools like a RAID document can remove a lot of uncertainty. By monitoring risks, actions, and dependencies, you can take back control of the development process and ensure it moves forward with as few surprises as possible.

Let Tempo give you another layer of control over your projects. Our powerful Roadmunk application lets you track project dependencies, plan risk mitigation responses, and create visual roadmaps detailing your project’s critical actions.

You can also stay up to date on essential tasks and productivity with Tempo Timesheets. Together, these tools produce real-time reports with clear timelines and status updates, keeping both project team members and stakeholders informed with a single point of contact.