War: What’s It Good For?

Product groups at Microsoft often have war teams. Fortunately, war teams are more peaceful than they sound. The terminology is derived from the military concept of war rooms, or command centers. Command centers are where decisions get made, and that’s what Microsoft war teams are all about.
The war team is made up of senior decision makers in each major discipline. At Microsoft, that includes, at a minimum, programming, testing, and project management. It also typically includes somebody representing the customer, as well as representation for other major components of the product, such as design, documentation or marketing.
War teams make decisions. During the final phases of a product shipping cycle, the war team meets daily to review open issues and decide how the issues should be addressed. For example, perhaps a bug has been identified in the product. The test representative may indicate that testing will require five days. The developer representative may indicate that the bug is in some gnarly code and could result in unexpected side effects. The customer-facing representative may indicate that the bug addresses a very important customer need. All opinions are weighed and a decision is made. The product manager has the final say. In final development phases, it’s not unusual for war teams to require "war approval" before allowing changes and code checkins to the product.
For game teams, the concept of war rooms can be very valuable. It’s very useful for stakeholders from design, art, audio, programming, testing, and production to make informed and consistent decisions about the title, particularly as a game moves into its final stages of development. A daily war room meeting can bring a sense of rhythm and order to the craziness often involved with getting a game out the door.
You can read more about the Windows Server war room here: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2003/apr03/04-23WinServerFacts.mspx
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