Structured Reviewing - Preparation

Preparation for a review is mostly in the hands of the moderator. This phase involves:

  • Setting up review matrix
  • Determine the focus of the review
  • Gathering contact information
  • Preparing the administration
  • Preparing reports
  • Informing the reviewers about the process and planning

The review matrix

A review matrix can be compared to a simple RACI matrix. It shows which project roles are involved in a review of a specific document type. The review matrix is covering all identified “to be reviewed” document types for the project related to a simplified view of the roles within the project.

Below example is neither correct or complete, but it shows the simplification of the roles. For example, in most situations there is no need to differentiate between types of Designers; they all have, sort of, the same background in knowledge and ‘view’ on document types.

Example of a review matrix

The matrix needs to be created in co-operation with project management and (representatives of) the roles to make sure no stake holders are missed and to have every role to accept their involvement in the reviews.

For each document type in the review matrix the ROI-factor needs to be determined to be able to calculate the ROI of a fixed Major.

Determine the focus of the review

Depending on the situation a choice has to be made which review technique is going to be used. Will it be a formal inspection or an informal desk-check? Maybe a walktrough or is an audit needed? There is enough to be found on the internet about these review types.

Regardless of the review type that is chosen, there also must be some kind of focus determined. What are the risks that need to be covered during the review? What’s the goal of the review?

In practice there are two aspects to take into account: risks ans lessons learned. The moderator informs the reviewers about the required focus and helps them by providing individual assistance.

Gathering contact information

Based on the roles defined in the review matrix, contact information needs to be gathered. Preferably names and email addresses, but if needed also group mail box addresses can be used. (see below example of the TestTeam).

Example of a contact list

Group mail boxes are not preferred because it can be difficult to identify which individual to address when a review is not performed or if there are any questions about the review comments. It might also be useful for the moderator to add meta data to each contact. Sometimes these lists can grow very big or contacts are not personally known to the moderator. An extra description can help in identifying the correct reviewers.

Preparing the administration

Document names, plan dates, lists of reviewers, emails and reports: all can be prepared upfront to make a smooth and standardized processing possible. Tooling can be very useful for these administrative activities, especially if the amount of reviews gets large. The values and metrics gathered all have a specific purpose:

  • to be able to track and trace and coordinate a perfect review process
  • to identify product quality issues which are identified upfront. Do no gather metrics ‘just for fun’ or because ‘it might be useful later on’.

Preparation of the administration must be done very precise; the whole ‘external view’ of the reviewers, authors and management relies heavily on reliable data.

Preparing reports

There are at least two types of reporting to consider:

  • Product specific reporting
  • Generic reporting on product or project level

Both types heavily rely on the administration and metrics gathered during the process. More types of reporting are possible, but in all situations: keep it positive, realistic and anonymous. The review reports may not trigger a functional assessment of individuals.
More about reporting

Informing the reviewers about the process and planning

When someone is not aware of the review process to follow, or the planning in which activities should start, nothing will happen. (Or at least not in the intended way) So it’s vital to inform all involved in the review about the process to be followed, the expectations and their role in the process.