The 4 Keys to Smarter Document Review

  August 21, 2017

So, let’s say that you are a product manager at a company that builds medical devices and you are about to take on a big project. Your team is developing a new blood glucose meter, targeted primarily towards individuals with Diabetes. Where do you start – and who do you start with?

You know that you are going to have a few key deliverables: requirements, design documents, test cases, and test plans. The success of your project relies heavily on getting feedback at different stages from 3 or 4 departments. To start and end on time, you can’t be waiting on emails and piecing together comments manually.  You need document review that is interactive and fast. These are the 4 keys to expediting and improving your document review process.

  1. Utilizing Reviews for Project Tracking

Who you have reviewing your work often defines the level of authority behind it. If you are presenting this strategy to the leadership team, having more people involved and the more cycles of feedback is best, right? Probably, but you also need to be realistic and meet your deadlines.

When the document review process runs through email, there’s no sense of urgency and no official close to a review. By using planned reviews as discrete events for project management, you can tighten feedback loops to better gauge the remaining workload. In our recent webinar on Fortifying a Culture of Collaboration, we discussed how a document review tool can enable you to drive projects forward through clearly-assigned tasks, notifications, and status listings.

  1. Developing and Standardizing Feedback Requirements

In order for organizations to develop a smart peer review process, they also need to implement custom workflows for each type of deliverable. For example, a company could say that all design documents must be reviewed by Mark from R&D, Zeke in marketing, and Jill from the compliance team before they are can be finalized. You probably would have known to consult with them on your project anyway, but the process of having to checking those boxes sets everyone’s expectations early on. Utilizing a document review tool like Collaborator allows organizations to easily create customized review workflows as templates.

This standardization is especially important for highly-regulated industries. The company in our medical device scenario, for example, needs a maintained and monitored quality management system in order to comply with ISO 13485 and the FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11 standard.

  1. Many-to-Many Visibility

Work is becoming more collaborative in general. With Slack channels and GChat, teams can quickly ask questions and share relevant articles with each other. Everyone in the group can see what everyone else is posting and can build upon it. This many-to-many visibility has taken off because it saves time and brings more people in on the conversation.

Conducting document review through email, as many companies still do, means that the feedback is typically exchanged on a 1-to-1 basis. When Mark comments on your roadmap, Jill in compliance can’t see it. If a question around product requirements pops up, she can’t easily chime in to answer.

1-to-1 visibility results in feedback overlap and feedback gaps from different reviewers. Mark and Zeke could both spend time separately writing out a comment about a change they had agreed to earlier in the week, while Jill can’t verify whether that change will actually line up with the latest FDA guidance because she is out of the loop. A many-to-many approach reduces situations like this that waste time and increase overall project risk.

  1. Clear Review Outcomes

When teams hold meetings to conduct requirement reviews, they often take notes and keep records of approximately what was said and by whom. These notes can become extremely valuable during audits, especially for companies in highly-regulated industries. With document review tools, companies get the comment tracking benefit of a meeting with the efficiency and remote capability of email. Additionally, comment tracking extends the scope of reviews by allowing reviewers to actually see what came of their feedback. Did R&D listen to what compliance had to say about product specs? For companies in regulation-heavy industries like healthcare, finance, and aerospace & defense, knowing that answer could determine the success of an audit.

Peer Review Potential

When teams adopt a more structured mentality around peer reviews, collaboration becomes expected rather than disruptive. Many-to-many meets process. But even still, without a robust review tool, there is an upper limit to how fast and how documented you can get. Collaborator, our best of breed tool for code and document review, integrates with Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF files to standardize and expedite review workflows across an organization.

To learn more about Collaborator, schedule a demo with us or start a free trial today.

More reading:

The Case for Reviewing Requirements and Design Documents

What Technical Documents Should You Review?