By xd_adminsummit | Knowledge | XDS Insider Series

XDS Insider: Isabelle Bismuth

Name: Isabelle Bismuth
Title: Project Manager Codev-Outsourcing
Organization: Ubisoft Montreal and Toronto

1. Please provide some career history. What are the roles you’ve had working in games?

“My career in the games industry began when I joined Ubisoft Montreal as a Project Coordinator for the cinematic studio. This role evolved into a Project Manager role for our VFX studio; where I was working on films and short movie titles. I then transitioned to managing various types of trailers and art work for the Ubisoft marketing teams when I joined the marketing art team services. My official adventure in external development began in 2012 when I took on a Project Manager role within the Ubisoft Montreal Codev and Outsourcing cell.”

2. Please describe your career experience with respect to external development (XD), and how your knowledge and influence has progressed in different roles.

“My experience in XD began when I was working in film post-production during my time at Vision Globale, before my career in the video games industry. The movie industry is accustomed to working with several studios simultaneously. Being one of the parties involved, I collaborated and synchronized with several other FX houses and post-production facilities as each of us was assigned specific types of tasks.

I then started working for Ubisoft Digital Arts, our internal FX studio, where my team closely collaborated with our sister studio Hybride. We participated in daily Cinesync sessions to review work and keep track of feedback to make sure the notes and status of the project were communicated to all parties. We invested time and energy in making sure our pipelines, processes and tool suites were compatible. When I joined the Codev and Outsourcing team in 2012, my role evolved to a broader level. I am now acting on a studio level and overseeing outsourcing and co-development mandates for the Ubisoft Montreal studio as well as Ubisoft Toronto projects.”

3. Please describe your current role and how it relates to XD.

“My current position as a Codev and Outsourcing Project Manager gives me the opportunity to work with several development teams in both our Montreal and Toronto studios. My responsibilities consist of helping the dev teams define and prepare their XD mandates, obtaining the best partners for either their codev (part of the game) or outsourcing (assets) mandates, and advising them on the best team structure to put in place while taking external development into account. Part of my role involves coaching managers in charge of XD, and sharing best practices and tools with them. Our team also conducts collaboration post-mortems, follows up on ongoing mandates with the codev associate producer who works with the dev team, and provides visibility on XD to the studio’s upper management as well as our head office in Paris.”

4. What are some best practices your studio has implemented to help it perform XD effectively?

Career Development – “Our team worked with HR to create the Associate Producer Codev position, which helped XD to be recognized as a full part of production and it commenced a new track for the career evolution of our managers.”

Process Improvements and Collaboration – “We conduct collaboration post-mortems to reflect on XD and we make sure to improve from one project to the next by implementing specific action plans. We also share the results of these post-mortems with all the Ubisoft groups to allow every development team to benefit from these continuously evolving insights.”

Internal Support – “We have dedicated contacts within both our IT and Security teams. We keep them informed on upcoming mandates with external partners; in order to plan the needed infrastructures as well as on-site security audits.”

Post Project Feedback – “We track post mandate feedback from our teams and share it in our internal database.”

5. What is the biggest obstacle XD poses for your team? How are you working to overcome this obstacle?

“A point that has stuck with me since my first XDS experience is, ‘With XD, you can’t rely solely on the human pipeline anymore’. This is an accurate statement and I would say it’s one of our biggest challenges. Dev teams need to adapt quickly to this new reality by preparing documentation for the teams abroad, making sure the pipelines & guidelines are in place, planning for training and travel, and adjusting their workload accordingly to take XD support into account.

To overcome this challenge, we work closely with producers to explain why they need a dedicated team to manage and follow-up on their XD mandates. I’m a true believer that the success of an XD mandate is closely related to the effort and the attention you put into it. In order for our production team to avoid surprises and unnecessary costs, they must invest in dedicated resources to oversee and review those mandates on a day-to-day basis.”

6. How many XDS events have you attended to date?

“I’ve attended all 3 XDS events since 2013.”

7. How has XDS helped to provide insight into XD?

“XDS is a great opportunity to meet various people in the industry who are managing XD on a daily basis. The networking is amazing and it allows me to reflect on our XD practices and develop new ideas on how to improve. We are all faced with similar challenges and aim to further our knowledge of XD, knowing that it’s an essential key to success.

At Ubisoft, we want to ensure that we’re using the best practices. We are all looking to find a win-win situation for both the publishers and the vendors. Each year the sessions have tackled different topics pertaining to XD, such as; trends in the industry, training, team structures, keeping track of XD deliverables, cultural differences, and pack test processes. Our team always obtains great insight when attending XDS!

8. What advice would you give to someone starting in a new XD role?

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

“Make sure to have regular communication with your internal and external teams to keep everyone informed and aligned. I would also suggest to grasp every opportunity to meet someone face-to-face, so you may share expectations but also to build trust as this is key to working with external teams.”