The Project Notebook

Reviews are Required

I’ve noticed a growing trend in a counter-productive behavior — skipping a review and rushing into execution. The usual excuse is “it slows things down”. The price you pay, however, is you may build the wrong thing and really slow things down. Many years ago I worked for a computer manufacturer. They aggressively decided to build a new system in parallel with developing the operating system — this wasn’t the norm in those days. The lack of an appropriate review let a major showstopping issue through — while the programmers were numbering the bits in one direction, the hardware designers were going in the other. This wasn’t uncovered for months, and many more months were wasted reviewing the code and correcting it after the damage was done. In the end, another manufacturer cornered the market and the system never went into manufacturing.

The Siebel Systems Expert Services team used to have at least a dozen different types of reviews available for customers to protect their project timelines and the value of their software purchase. I can recommend three basic reviews to consider for any project:

  • Status: Where are we with respect to schedule, cost, performance, and scope? Perform this review periodically (usually weekly) or at least at regular intervals.
  • Design: Does it meet spec? User friendly? Can we actually build it? Perform this review at least after the functional requirements are written.
  • Process: What are we doing well? What needs to be improved? Perform this review for longer projects or in between short projects.

In fact, each major step should have some form of review if for no other reason than to verify the scope and the quality of the deliverable. If you are not sure how to conduct reviews, I can highly recommend the work of Dan Freeman and Gerry Weinberg. Their original work, published in 1977 was the Ethno Technical Review Handbook (EthnoTech Inc.). In 1990 they updated this work with the Handbook of Walkthroughs: Inspections & Technical Reviews (Dorset House).

So next time you have an important project, as you plan, plan on having some reviews at the right time to ensure your project is successful.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP