What Is Document Review?

How it helps and what to look for
  January 07, 2021

In the context of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), document review makes it easier for an organization to curate, govern, and manage the lifecycle of digital artifacts beyond source code.

These include documentation, spreadsheets, presentations, image files, system and architectural images, and other files related to software projects. It is a discipline often practiced in regulated industries, or where quality certification is a requirement. Beyond the regulated use case, it can be used by organizations to help focus on quality.

It benefits any organization in overall quality improvement, customer experience, or risk management. It can even reduce labor expenses, among other things.

What to look for in a document review platform

Ideally, the platform provides both code and document review. This lets you manage the complete review-and-verification process based on best practice requirements.

The workflow of attaching and tracking verification of artifacts by the platform allows better accuracy, reduced errors, and provides a baseline for governance controls. Your document review process will verify that requirements were met and completed from the beginning – or at least really close.

In addition, developers should be able to  write and maintain quality software application requirements. Accurate requirements translate into fewer flaws in the code, cleaner tests, and – when organizations ship fewer defects – saved time and energy. Not to mention having versions throughout the process leaves a record that can be immensely useful.

Throw reviews under “the bus”

The benefit of a defined document review process, in relation to managing changes, is that stakeholders have context of what’s going on. The more context  about changes made, the less room for risk. This is something referred to as the “bus theory.” And the theory is: How many people does it take to be hit by a bus before anyone knows what's going on?

For example, say a single analyst wrote the requirements, and is the only one who's ever seen them. And then she’s hit by a bus. The team will have to go back to the customer because nobody knows what the requirements were. That could be a serious problem.

In fairness, I hope the customer might be understanding given an analyst was hit by a bus, but you get the idea – the situation can cause serious heartburn. It massively slows down the development process, versus if that same analyst was working on requirements but it involved more contacts. In this second scenario, now there are many others who understand what's going on.

So, if the analyst gets hit by a proverbial bus (or goes to another company, or wins the lottery and retires), the impact is mitigated. Another way of explaining it is that it reduces employee-attrition risk, preventing the brain drain of an exit, as the environment is more documented with tribal knowledge.

Back to what to look for, the system should deliver ordered control on the impact of change to quality. Changes are certain in software development, but if requirements are managed so that everyone is on the same page, then stakeholders can update and communicate to the team effectively. This will place an organization in a better position to manage change  without the major impacts to quality, and the associated costs and risks.

How Collaborator helps

First of all, Collaborator was designed with all the necessities mentioned above. It’s a customized solution for both document and source code review that lets you define a best practice review process for the SDLC. Whether that process is to have a certain number of sign-offs on the review, or  ensure certain members from each discipline are part of it – or any other configuration – it’s completely configurable. And it’s extensible, integrating with external solutions such as Jira.

Since it handles both, many organizations have chosen it as their SDLC review platform of choice . They want to one tool that does both while supporting multiple teams and connecting multiple tools.

It saves from an administrative perspective: If they don't have to learn how to configure, or have the overhead of, administering two tools, the environment is simpler. There are benefits to simpler tooling like working with one vendor and to everybody utilizing the same process.

Finally, for many teams, reporting from reviews is key to defining success. There are many examples. Are they successful within the context of their peer reviews? Are they finding or releasing fewer defects? Are they capturing the data they need for compliance? Success can be defined in a number of ways, so Collaborator allows flexibility for those organizations to manage for their reporting needs.

Dig deeper

I hope you’ve found this quick rundown of document review, some of its larger benefits, and briefing on how Collaborator helps to be informative.

If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to click this link and attend one of our On-Demand Webinars that goes into further detail of the Collaborator solution and how you can improve quality through document review.

If you prefer to learn more by reading research, and you have ever wondered what your peers think about document review, feel free to check out the 2020 State of Code Review survey. Over 700 software professionals participated in the study to provide insights into document and code review, frequency, tools, and code quality.

Or, if you’re ready to have a conversation about how Collaborator can be put into use at your organization immediately, please contact sales directly here.