Review Process

Subject: Review Process
From: "Chris Knight" <cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 13:21:08 -0800

Martha Jane {Kolman | Davidson} wrote:
As soon as I finish each draft chapter, I send it out for review by
developers, QA engineers, and architects. I don't always get the level of
feedback you describe. Often all I hear is, "it looks fine," which is good,
but not necessarily thorough enough for me to know whether I've covered all
the necessary topics or kept up with those last-minute changes to file
formats or dialog boxes. In my current job, at least, it's as much up to me
to know these things as it is for already-overworked engineers to have to do
it for me. If I have confidence that my descriptions capture the essence of
the methodology and the conceptual underpinnings of the tools, I'm not tied
to waiting for engineers to approve my documents before they can be released
when the deadlines are this tight.

The situation that Martha describes is common, but it is NOT the best way to
Her reviewers are not doing their job, and tight deadlines are no excuse. I
expect my reviewers to sign a document that states (amongst other things)
that the document under review contains no errors. Do they catch everything?
No, sometimes I catch an error after review has begun, and I'm sure the odd
one eludes all of us. However, if the reviewers have certified that they
have checked and found no errors, we have done our best.

Ideally, technical documents should be verified for accuracy by an
independent party (i.e. not the writer and not the developer/expert),
typically an IVT (Independent Verification and Testing) or QA (Quality
Assurance) group.
Too much can go wrong otherwise. You can't ensure that you find changes to a
program just by running it every so often, unless you rigorously test every
part of the program. If you are doing that, you are in effect doing
verification and testing, just not doing it independently. Even making sure
that you receive all change notices wouldn't be sufficient, in my
experience: you may not realize the impact of a change just from its
description. In any event, any company disciplined enough to have an
accurate change notice system is likely disciplined enough to have
independent verification.

Christopher Knight, Technical Communicator
E-mail: cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca
Phone: 604 877 0074

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