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Managing Risk in Video Game Development


May 3, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 9 of 9
 

DDP Best Practices

There are several additional practices that can help you get the most out of discovery-driven planning:

  • Test all assumptions: You should never leave any assumptions untested.  Ensure that when you build your Checkpoint list, you end up testing every single assumption in your plan.  The most important assumptions (those with the greatest sensitivity, i.e. the greatest potential effect on profits) should be tested at multiple Checkpoints, and those Checkpoints should be moved as early in the project as possible.
  • 20-by-30 rule: It's a good idea to stay within no more than 20 Checkpoints and 30 assumptions.  In practice, you're unlikely to ever re-plan if the DDP exercise grows beyond this scope.
  • Keeper of Assumptions: It's recommended to nominate one individual as the "keeper of assumptions" tasked with the primary responsibility for updating all of the assumptions at each checkpoint.  This should typically be an individual who is not on the critical path and will have enough time to be diligent in checking these assumptions and discussing them thoroughly with the project's planning team as production proceeds.
  • Document learning: It is recommended to document what you learn at each Checkpoint and show how and why the ranges of the assumptions you tested at that Checkpoint have (hopefully) narrowed.  If at all possible, this should go in a shared wiki or SharePoint folder for the whole team to learn from and discuss.

Conclusions

The game industry is constantly changing, often with breathtaking speed.  In an industry that changes so quickly, the greatest danger comes when we stop learning and adapting.  One of the key benefits of discovery-driven planning is that it not only encourages but actively enforces learning at the very highest levels of the organization.

Although change is inevitable and not all risks can be managed or even anticipated, we can only benefit from improving our ability to understand, analyze, and manage what risks we can.

Discovery-driven planning is an immensely useful tool for managing uncertainty and inculcating a risk focus into existing organizations.  It forces managers to articulate what they don't know so that they can orient the project toward learning the unknowns and reducing overall project risk.  It also ensures that the planning process takes the big picture into account, cleanly separates the knowns from the unknowns, and allows the team to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and at the lowest possible cost.

Once again, to download the DDP spreadsheet, please click here.

The author would like to thank Wharton School Professor Ron Pierantozzi for his contributions to this article. 


Article Start Previous Page 9 of 9

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