Risk management known no boundaries This is the message that ALARM will deliver to delegates at the PRIMO conference in Copenhagen on 25 November, says Sharon Roots.

Along with other members of the risk community, ALARM will explain the development of risk management over the last 12 years to delegates at the PRIMO (Public Risk Management Organisation) conference. It will also discuss the lessons learned in progressing from a small organisation of like-minded individuals to being the leading public sector forum for risk professionals, with some 1800 members across a range of public sector organisations.

This is a continuation of a theme first explored by ALARM, along with Marsh, in Brussels last year, where discussions were held with UDITE (Union of Local Authority Chief Executives of Europe) to suggest a risk management event for the European public sector.

Along with the EIRM, and the Institute of Risk Management, the parties are united in stressing the importance of risk management in the public sector, and are determined to highlight the assistance they can provide in supporting fellow practitioners.

So what specific messages is ALARM going on record with? Given the transition from an operational function dealing with insurance to the recognition that risk management is a management tool best operated on a strategic level, new players in the game should consider using risk-based methodology from the outset. While the public sector in the UK has admittedly been driven to this through a series of standards and inspectorates, including the Audit Commission and the comprehensive performance assessment requirements, it is now accepted as best practice, and should be recognised as the way forward without need for further regulation.

Enterprise risk management can result in the more efficient use of resources, a means of prioritising competing concerns and the ability to demonstrate evaluated decisions. In a world where public sector organisations increasingly act as facilitators, rather than as providers of a range of services, the need to grasp opportunities grows greater. However, the very action of stepping out of the controlled world of public sector regulation, and operating in a quasi-commercial environment presents significant risks as well as opportunities. It is against this background that risk management and a structured methodology can demonstrate added value to an organisation.

So what is the best way to populate a community of would-be risk practitioners with the skills, knowledge and professionalism required to drive risk management throughout the public sector?

Here again ALARM looks back to its own history for both best practice and lessons learned. Networking and sharing of best practice have long been strengths of ALARM, which for the last 12 years have been evidenced at its annual conference. This showcases its awards for excellent initiatives, and has grown into a three day event for some 500 delegates, who can choose from more than 50 workshops. In addition to that event, ALARM offers a robust framework of regional events, coordinated by regional groups which provide bespoke training and sharing, directly influenced by members. Several of these regions provide their own annual events that offer challenging and topical workshops.

ALARM recognises the importance of growing these events and capitalising on those established regions, to ensure all regions offer an annual event of excellent quality. The process for this has started with a framework of financing and administration support and this year's business plan includes a dedicated activity to expand these opportunities as a basic member benefit.

However, increasing opportunity is only part of the story. As experience of members grows, so the challenge of delivering relevant and practical sessions increases, and given the increasing diversity of the ALARM membership, a specific challenge is the strategic development of the education programme.

ALARM recognises the advantages of partnerships with the IRM and EIRM as established providers of educational products, and supports their products and programmes of accredited and formal qualifications. As part of that partnership ALARM is operating a continuous professional development scheme - Registered Risk Practitioner - that allows practitioners to evidence their ongoing development, and their drive to keep abreast of the dynamic risks of their environment.

Other messages ALARM will share include the difficulties in keeping focused, and the need for a business plan that demonstrates performance and tangible outputs. Whilst this seems fundamental, it is not so easy to achieve when the board of an organisation are all volunteers with day jobs.

ALARM has recently restructured board responsibilities around a series of portfolios which support the business plan, or are fundamental to the organisation's growth and development. Amongst these are separate responsibilities for strategic education development and to develop membership benefits.

ALARM does not claim to be the greatest, but it has more than 12 years of experience of growth and development of public sector risk management. It is committed to supporting the evolution of risk management in Europe and hopes that its presentation at PRIMO will help to support fellow practitioners, and that ultimately public sector risk management will truly have no boundaries.

- Sharon Roots is chairman of ALARM - The National Forum for Risk Management in the Public Sector, www.alarm-uk.com - ALARM's 2006 conference will be held at UMIST, Manchester, on 26-28 June 2006. Further details of Registered Risk Practitioner can be obtained from admin@alarm-uk.com