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Oh, my most favourite decision and risk register flavours!

Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 14, 2023


Hi, PgM Community!

As a Program Manager at Atlassian for the last 6ish years, my most favourite moments in driving a program are managing decisions and risks. I get all the warm fuzzies (and my team does, too!) when we make key decisions and knock out agitating risks.

When it comes to logging and tracking the wide array of decisions and risks throughout a program’s life, I have two favourite flavours. My first flavour is your basic vanilla :vanilla_icecream: in the form of a Confluence table. My second flavour is neapolitan :ice_cream: in the form of a project in Jira Software (JSW).


:vanilla_icecream: Vanilla for simplicity

Confluence tables are great in their simplicity with set-up and ease of use. I’ve found a Confluence table works well when there’s a need to track a series of questions (aka decisions) to gain better clarity between teams on a specific feature or capability. I’ve also found a table fits the bill when a program is relatively small with low complexity so there’s rather a bounded number of decisions to be made and anticipated risks.


Example of a decision register using a Confluence table

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 4.01.44 PM.png


 Example of a risk register using a Confluence table

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.55.20 PM.png


:ice_cream: Neapolitan for more flavour

For the most part, programs are complex and ambiguous So, most of the time I use Jira Software (JSW) over a Confluence table to track decisions and risks for my programs. When a vanilla flavour doesn’t cut it, switch to neapolitan to meet your and your stakeholders cravings!

Just like how I have separate tables in Confluence for a decision register and a risk register, I have separate projects in JSW for those same registers. Using a kanban template in a team-managed JSW project, I set up my program and underlying workstreams as epics and the open decisions and risks as individual issues. Columns in JSW represent the different statuses (identified, in progress, etc.).


Here are the main reasons why I love using JSW for logging and progressing decisions and risks for a program:


  1. Swimlanes! When key decisions and risks pile up, visual acuity is key. JSW provides a nice swimlane view of decisions and risks against status. I can easily see program and workstream level decisions and risks in a structured manner and smoothly progress them across the JSW kanban board as the decision/risk gets worked on. I can also quickly see the number of decisions/risks against status (identified, in progress, etc.) as there’s a count for each status column.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.57.06 PM.png
  1. Labeling for laser focus. Labeling in JSW is great to further categorize decisions and risks that can then be specifically viewed via filtering. I tend to start with “beta” and “ga” (general availability) as default labels in my programs and later add more labels as it makes sense to. Specific labels along with a due date on a JSW issue helps my team to better frame the relevance and urgency of the issue.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.57.54 PM.png


  1. Flag! You’re it! While I use the priority field in JSW, I also use the flag function to especially highlight those decisions and risks my program team needs to whack down ASAP. This visual highlight (the JSW decision/risk issue is set to a different color) is great to leverage in my weekly program team sync to keep the convo focused on the key open decisions and risks we need to work on for the week.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.58.34 PM.png


  1. Custom fields for custom needs. Real estate in a Confluence table can get really cramped as you start populating it with free form data. I love that JSW allows me to create custom fields where I can neatly capture key info like who are the contributors and approver for a decision or what is the impact and likelihood a risk will happen. This info can easily and quickly be seen in JSW.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM.png 

  1. Comments for the hash out. Each decision and risk in JSW is it’s own issue, so clear discussions can be held on each of them via comments in the issue. Not only am I able to keep a clear historical reference of async discussions on the decision or risk but I can also use the comments field to capture key points made during live discussions on the decision or risk. I find this to be a lot cleaner than in-line commenting on a Confluence table which can start to get hairy.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 3.59.55 PM.png


While it does take a bit more time to set up a project in JSW, it’s well worth the light sweat equity. (Note, when I say “project” in this context, it’s a team managed project not a company managed project in JSW. A team managed project is one you can configure while a company managed project is set by your admin. Chat with your JSW admin to learn more.)


:flavortown: What’s your flavour?

Depending on the size, complexity, and duration of your program, how you manage decisions and risks can be different but the overall framework is the same (at least in my experience!). How is everyone else tackling logging and progressing program decisions and risks? Do you use a Confluence table, JSW, or something entirely different? Do you have a favourite flavour?



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Absolutely love the decision macro, I have been using it ever since I stumbled on it. And also, use of decision tracker/tree in parent pages.

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Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 14, 2023 • edited

Oh, nice one @Varsha Joshi ! That's a great macro to use especially when capturing meeting minutes. Did you stumble upon it by bringing up the macro (i.e. typing the backlash "/") while in edit mode of a Confluence page? Or maybe you saw it in the Meeting Notes template in Confluence? Curious to know!

Regarding the decision tracker/tree comment, I think you're referencing the decision report macro which is also a great one to use! (For those curious, below is an example of what that macro looks like populated with fake data of course 🙂 .


Screenshot 2023-11-14 at 10.45.39 AM.png

Miles Tillinger
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 15, 2023

Another Decision macro gaining traction fast is the Decision Helper for Confluence, built by Atlassians, and it's free!

It includes a Decision Helper UX to help kick-off a DACI (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) Decision page, AND a beautiful dashboard for tracking all Decisions in a Confluence space.  

I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's really helped my portfolio to improve metrics around decision making.

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I was looking for a way to document/consolidate the important decisions we make throughout a project - I must have found it on Atlassian's community.

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Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 15, 2023

Great to hear, @James Totah ! Do you have a favourite flavour in managing decisions and risks?

This is incredibly impressive, Penny! By nature, I'm generally a vanilla person, especially when it comes to management controls/monitoring/tracking in PPM, but I really like how you've setup JSW to track decisions and risks here.

I'll definitely keep this bookmarked for future use. 

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Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 15, 2023

Thanks, @Faraz Moin ! If you find yourself gravitating towards JSW to manage decisions and risks, would love to hear about it and your experience (if you end up using JSW) with it.

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Drew J_
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Nov 15, 2023

Love seeing these use cases for risk tracking! @Penny Lew I see you have a swim lane Decided (Open Tasks) and Decided (Closed). How do you use the former? Once a risk has a decision, what drives you to move it to Open Tasks versus Closed?

Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 15, 2023

Hi @Drew J_ , glad you find these use cases are helpful! Ah, hopefully I didn't confuse you with showing an example of a decision register in JSW for my bullets 1 and 2 and an example of a separate risk register in JSW for my bullets 3, 4, and 5 in the Neapolitan flavour section. Was trying to show examples of both types of registers without causing info overload as they are generally set-up the same way.

With that said, I have 2 separate registers - 1 for decisions and 1 for risks. For the decision register, I have the column "Decided (Open Tasks)" and "Decided (Closed)" as you pointed out. I'll move a decision to the former if there is a follow-up action that should be tracked to keep accountability on it and would be reviewed in the next sync on the decision register with the involved team. I've found that while a decision has been made, there could be some follow-up actions that need to happen to ensure the loop on that decision is carried through.

As you can tell, that "Decided (Open Tasks)" column is relevant when there are a lot of decisions being made for a large program (I used that column as we were planning and launching Atlassian's Cloud Enterprise plan). For that program, we would review the full decision register every week and would revisit the ones marked in the "Decided (Open Tasks)" to remind ourselves of what follow-ups still need to be done.

Thanks for sharing this Penny. I've also used a combination of both Confluence and Jira for risk management and tracking.

Confluence tables are lightweight and simple for smaller, shorter programs of work and I link these to our confluence program plans and review and track with the team. If there are work items in Jira associated with the risk items, then you can easily link these for a simple view of program risks.

For longer running / larger programs of work, I've found a lot of benefit using Jira. I've created a "Risk" issue type with a custom workflow which gives you all of the benefits of Jira workflow, commenting, history, linking to mitigation tasks etc. I've just built simple dashboards to track and report on all program risks and used these to give snapshot views of risk register status and to track and follow up with the team.

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Penny Lew
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Nov 20, 2023

Great to hear you use both Confluence and Jira depending on the duration and size of a program @Teena Glassick . Love that you've set-up dashboards in Jira to track and report on program risks.

I have some stakeholders who prefer to see a dashboard in Confluence so, while I track risks in JSW, I'll have a read-only dashboard view in Confluence based on the JSW tickets. I use the JSW macro in Confluence and configure it with JQL.

Here's an example of what that can look like in Confluence:

Screenshot 2023-11-20 at 12.43.46 PM.png


Depending on what data slices you or your stakeholders need, you can also see risks by workstream and by milestone if you use custom labels in JSW to indicate that on your issues.

Just some food for thought in case you see a need for a dashboard view in Confluence based off of JSW issues.

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