Difference Between Qualitative & Quantitative Risk Analysis

  • Reviewed By: Raja Umer (Safety Coordinator, GRADIOSH)

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

Qualitative and quantitative risk analysis are two methods used to understand and assess the potential risks that can impact an organization or project. They differ in their approach, purpose, and the type of information they provide.

Qualitative Risk AnalysisQuantitative Risk Analysis
DefinitionUses a subjective approach to assess the likelihood and impact of risks.Assigns specific monetary values to risks.
ToolsBrainstorming, checklists, Delphi technique, interviews, surveys.Decision trees, expected monetary value calculations, Monte Carlo simulations.
Risk CategoriesLow, medium, highNumerical or monetary values
GoalIdentifies and prioritizes risks based on perception.Assesses the potential monetary cost of a risk event.
Data CollectionGathered from participants’ perceptions.Derived from numerical and statistical data.
Use CaseTypically conducted at the beginning of the risk management process.Typically conducted after qualitative risk analysis.
BenefitHelps in quick decision-making, cost-effective, easy to implement.Provides precise numerical data, aids in financial decision-making.
Quantitative Vs Qualitative Risk Assessment

1. 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 reach a consensus on risk probability and impact.
  • Interviews – Ask questions to gain insight into the risk profile of a particular system or process.
  • Surveys – Collect data from large groups of people to determine risk probability and severity.

2. Quantitative Risk Analysis

On the other hand, quantitative risk analysis attempts to assign a specific monetary 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 decision-making.

Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis Examples

When To Perform A Qualitative And Quantitative Risk Analysis

Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analyses serve different purposes in risk management and are used at different stages in the risk management process.

Qualitative Risk Analysis

Qualitative risk analysis is performed at the initial stage of a project or when there’s a significant change in the project or business environment, such as a change in project scope, the introduction of new regulations, or the identification of new potential risks. This process involves identifying and assessing risks based on their potential impact and likelihood of occurrence.

Qualitative analysis is useful in identifying the priority of risks. It helps classify risks into high, medium, or low depending on their potential impact on the project objectives. This analysis assists in determining which risks require immediate attention and which can be monitored over time. It also helps engage stakeholders in the risk process since this approach is generally more discussion-oriented and accessible to a broader audience.

Due to its relatively low cost, simplicity, and quickness, qualitative risk analysis can be performed frequently during the project life cycle. This helps update the risk register and keep stakeholders informed about the current risk status.

Quantitative Risk Analysis

On the other hand, quantitative risk analysis is usually performed after the qualitative risk analysis and often during the planning phase of a project. It’s used when a more precise and detailed understanding of risks is required, such as for significant projects with high-stakes outcomes or when specific financial or scheduling forecasts are needed.

Quantitative analysis involves a more in-depth examination of project risks and often uses statistical techniques to assign numerical values or ranges to risks. This includes estimating the probability of risk occurrence, determining the potential monetary cost or schedule impact, and assessing the overall risk exposure of the project.

Quantitative risk analysis can be resource-intensive and time-consuming, which means it’s not suitable for all types of projects. It’s best utilized for projects where the costs of potential risks could be high, and the accuracy of risk estimation is crucial to the decision-making process.

In summary, it’s not choosing between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis but understanding when to use each. Both approaches play vital roles in comprehensive risk management and are often used to ensure a thorough understanding of risks and their potential impacts.


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 an organization’s risks. 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 your organization is always prepared to face the unexpected.

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Hamza Ali

Hamza Ali is an adept safety professional with a decade's experience in various high-risk industries, from construction to oil refineries. His commitment to implementing effective safety protocols has been instrumental in protecting employees and customers, reflecting his deep dedication to occupational health and safety.