Technical Review Guidelines

Subject: Technical Review Guidelines
From: "Phillips, Warren D (Warren)** CTR **" <phillipsw -at- LUCENT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 15:34:28 -0400

Working with SMEs is never easy.

Rather than providing steps for technical reviews, I would like to take a
different approach and
recommend the following principles for getting technical reviews

1. Work with the SME on a personal level. Get to know them, help them if
you can (project related or otherwise). The better the relationship, the
easier will be the process of knowledge sharing. This is a people business
- or it should be!

2. Contact the SME frequently. Even if it is just stopping by. Review
information in chunks - as this will fit into their busy schedule. By the
time they officially "review" the document, they will be familiar with the
pieces - the final review is of the document as a whole. Often, as I have
hung around in a SMEs office waiting while he answered multiple phone calls
- I was able to capture useful pieces of information, written on the wall,
documents I was able to look at, or just overhearing what he was dealing
with at that given moment.

3. Take the lead - facilitate the exchange of information. With some SMEs,
they will overwhelm you and may work to establish "ownership" of the
document. Other SMEs will not provide anything unless you aggressively (and
tactfully) pursue issues with them. In either case, getting the desired
information is not a passive activity. Nor is it a one shot deal - it is an
incremental mining of the source.

4. Take an interest in the subject matter. The best luck I have had is
when I become a lay expert on the subject - providing technical level
feedback to help improve not only my project, but other projects the SME may
be involved with. This also helps you get control of the content - if
politics are such that the SMEs can drive the document.

5. Realize that often there is no one SME - but instead there exists a
"collective SME" - consisting of knowledge distributed throughout multiple
people and multiple storage areas. As you consolidate information from all
of these sources, you may become the sole expert with the overall
understanding of how a system works as a whole. By sharing this information
and feeding it back to all of the "focused SMEs", you will help them.

Bottom line - I have tried improved forms, checklists, guidance letters,
review commitment letters from management. Within the world of reduced
cycle times, and tight budgets, reviewing someone else's work ALWAYS ends up
a low priority task for the SME. Only by working one-on-one will you be
able to champion your cause.

And yes - this take time. For some people, working this way may be
uncomfortable for them. And management needs to support this - I was on one
project where the authors were prohibited from direct contact with the SMEs.
Fortunately we turned that around...

Warren Phillips
Training & Documentation Consultant
Lucent Technologies, Inc.
e-mail: phillipsw -at- lucent -dot- com

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