Difference Between Qualitative & Quantitative Risk Analysis

Difference Between Qualitative & Quantitative Risk Analysis

When dealing with organizational risk, it’s important to understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis. Risk assessment is critical to determining what needs to be done to protect assets, investments, and individuals from potential danger or harm. Qualitative and quantitative risk analysis provides two distinct methods for assessing your enterprise’s potential risks. In this post, we will explore the differences between each approach so you can better comprehend your vulnerability and develop plans that enable you to stay safe while keeping costs low.

Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis

The two main approaches to risk analysis are qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative Risk Analysis

Qualitative risk analysis typically means assessing the likelihood of a risk occurring based on subjective qualities and the impact it could have on an organization using predefined ranking scales. The impact of risks is often categorized into three levels: low, medium, or high. The probability that a risk will occur can also be expressed the same way or categorized as the likelihood it will occur, ranging from 0% to 100%.

A qualitative risk analysis produces subjective results because it gathers data from participants in the risk analysis process based on their perceptions of the probability of a risk and the risk’s likely consequences. Categorizing risks helps organizations and/or project teams decide which risks can be considered low priority and which must be actively managed to reduce the effect on the enterprise or the project.

Qualitative Risk Analysis Examples

Examples of qualitative risk analysis include brainstorming, checklists, the Delphi technique, interviews, and surveys. Each one offers a different type of data or insights into your organization’s potential risks, such as:

  • Brainstorming – Gathering ideas in an informal setting to uncover possible risks.
  • Checklists – Using a list of questions to identify potential risks.
  • The Delphi technique – Gathering expert opinions from members throughout an organization to come to a consensus on risk probability and impact.
  • Interviews – Asking questions to gain insight into the risk profile of a particular system or process.
  • Surveys – Collecting data from large groups of people in order to determine risk probability and severity.

Quantitative Risk Analysis

Quantitative risk analysis, on the other hand, attempts to assign a specific financial amount to adverse events, representing the potential cost to an organization if that event actually occurs and the likelihood that the event will occur in a given year. In other words, if the anticipated cost of a significant cyberattack is $10 million and the likelihood of the attack occurring during the current year is 10%, that risk would be $1 million for the current year.

In contrast, a quantitative risk analysis examines a project’s overall risk and is generally conducted after a qualitative risk analysis. The quantitative risk analysis numerically analyzes the probability of each risk and its consequences.

Quantitative Risk Analysis Examples

Examples of quantitative risk analysis include decision trees, expected monetary value (EMV) calculations, and Monte Carlo simulations. These techniques are used to provide a numerical representation of the potential effects of identified risks:

  • Decision trees – Analyzing how decisions or actions can lead to different outcomes and the resulting financial costs or gains associated with those outcomes.
  • Expected monetary value (EMV) calculations – Assigning financial values to risks or opportunities based on their estimated probability and potential gain/loss.
  • Monte Carlo simulations – Modeling the cost of risk over multiple iterations to determine the most common outcome and its financial implications.

Quantitative Risk Analysis Goal

A quantitative risk analysis aims to associate a specific monetary amount to each risk that has been identified, representing the potential cost to an organization if that risk occurs. So, an organization that has done a quantitative risk analysis and is then hit with a data breach should be able to easily determine the financial impact of the incident on its operations.

Quantitative risk analysis provides an organization with more objective information and data than the qualitative analysis process, thus aiding in its value to the decision-making process.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis can help you more accurately predict the financial implications of events. Qualitative analyses provide a subjective picture of risks, while quantitative analyses allow for a more exact numerical portrayal of the risks faced by an organization. Both analyses are essential for understanding how to manage risk in any organization.

It’s important to remember that risk management is an iterative process. In other words, even if you use both qualitative and quantitative analyses to predict potential risks and their impacts, it’s still important to regularly revisit and adjust your risk management strategy in light of any new environmental developments or changes. Doing so will help ensure that your organization is always prepared to face the unexpected.

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