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The risk assessment team should be formed as early as possible. On the team
should be representatives from design, test, production, systems engineering,
logistics, and product management.
The risk assessment team should first establish a technical risk baseline
using as input the program requirements, the DoD templates, and best practices
advocated by the templates and by industry experts. As the team members do
their risk assessment of the entire program, they can pinpoint likely
challenges to meeting the requirements.
The technical risk baseline should be comprehensive and cover key events
throughout the system's life, including requirements, specifications, design,
test, manufacturing, deployment, support, and eventual disposal.
Use Input for Technical Risk Baseline
The technical risk baseline is the standard against which the team can
identify, analyze, and manage risks. In arriving at this baseline, the team
uses the company's experience and expertise as well as industry
The team can use program requirements, the DoD templates, and best
practices to help establish the technical risk baseline and identify technical
risks. The team can then put the technical risk baseline and risks in an
overall plan such as the Systems Engineering Management Plan or SEMP. (Refer
to the Transition Plan reference guide for more details on management
Use Data from Past Projects
In developing the technical risk baseline for some technical risks, the
team can use data from previous projects. Examples of helpful data include
component failure rates, stress failure rates, software faults, etc. For
example, the guidelines for a software project may specify the maximum number
of faults per thousand lines of software code. The team establishes its
technical risk baseline for faults per thousand lines of code from company
data on similar software projects. In Step 2, the team compares this technical
risk baseline with the guidelines. If the guidelines specify two faults or
fewer per thousand lines of code and the company has never achieved fewer than
four faults per thousand lines of code on past projects, the project is in
jeopardy and a technical risk exists.
Draw Upon Industry Expertise
The team also draws upon industry expertise in developing the technical
baseline. For example, there is general industry agreement that products made
from composite materials cannot be designed and manufactured in the same way
as products made from aluminum. A technical risk exists if the system plan
uses the same techniques for composites and aluminum.
In other instances, such clear-cut data may not be available, but experts
may be able to identify technical risks even without reliable statistics. For
example, experts agree that it is important to have specifications approved
before detailed design begins. Thus, the team identifies a technical risk if
the design is three-quarters finished before an government agency approves the
Include Key Indicators in the Technical Risk Baseline
The associated table gives examples of some key indicators in a technical
risk baseline. The third column shows examples of technical risks for a
state-of-the-art airplane. A common element for many of these risks is that
the new project goes beyond the current competencies of the company or the
Table 3. Examples of Key Risk Indicators
for a State-of-the-Art Airplane
||Questions to Identify Risks
||Examples of Technical
||Are requirements developed and baselined? Or are
requirements still changing greatly?
||The requirements for the new airplane continue to
change as the political situation changes|
||Have specifications been developed and approved
by al the appropriate organizations?
||The government agency has not yet delivered the
noise specifications for the new plane.|
||Can the requirements for speed, range, capacity,
and accuracy be met?
||The new plane must fly 20% farther and 20% faster
than earlier planes.|
||Are requirements for weight, length, and center
of balance achievable?
||The new plane must be three-quarters the
weight of other planes with its capabilities |
||Has the company previously met the requirements
for reliability, safety, and supportability?
||The mean time between failure for the new plane
must be twice that of the earlier plane.|
||Does the company have the expertise to control
effects of vibration, temperature, and shock?
||The new plane must operate under rapidly
fluctuating temperature conditions that are greater than previously
|Design and manufacturing
||Is the company an expert on the proposd new
technology? Can the company quickly acquire the needed expertise?
||To develop a plane that flies at supersonic
speeds and also evades radar, designers must use composites and shapes
that provide speed as well as stealth.|
||Does the company's previous experience and
expertise match the requirements and best practices?
||The prime contractor has limited experience
designing and manufacturing composites|
||Are multiple sources available that meet quality
||The vendors of the new lightweight composite
material have little experience in meeting government quality