A Gartner survey of more than 382 strategic initiative leaders quantified the cost of missing risks in strategic initiatives.

For an average $5-billion revenue company it amounts to $99-million annually in opportunity cost from delayed new product launches alone.

Initiatives where risks are not surfaced and mitigated in a timely fashion are delayed by an average of five weeks per year.

Moreover, in a related survey of 111 emerging risk management (ERM) leaders just 6% felt that their organisation’s risk response was timely during strategic initiatives.

“These findings show that risk response usually is not timely,” says Emily Riley, senior principal: research in the Gartner audit and risk practice. “But they also show the huge cost of an untimely response. The recent Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the need for an agile response to unexpected risks.

“The performance benefits of a timely risk response stand out clearly,” says Riley. “There’s a business opportunity here because ERM leaders expressed their desire to be more involved in supporting strategic initiative success.”

Seventy-six percent of ERM heads said they wanted to increase the proportion of their time they spend on strategic initiatives. More than half said that their involvement should come at the earliest stages of a strategic initiative. Yet currently just 11% feel they are involved before an initiative’s execution.

“The problem we often see is initiative teams are not getting the information they need to act on risks in a timely manner,” says Riley. “This is one area where ERM teams can add value.”

This can have several root causes. Sometimes many individuals are involved in an initiative without clear accountability to one another. There is also often a sensitivity to candidly sharing information about threats to high stakes projects. Another common cause is a focus on performance metrics that overshadows forward-looking considerations.

“ERM’s role should be to connect initiative teams with subject matter experts, to facilitate opportunities for anonymous sharing of concerns, and to develop risk indicators that consider leading indicators of project success,” says Riley.