When purchasing a car, most folks make their choice based on the external and internal appearance of the vehicle, but they don't finalize their purchase until they have the opportunity to take the all-important "test drive". The same attitude should apply toward nice looking, completed specification packets. Now that a designer has taken the opportunity to think through the details of an individual program, and put his or her ideas into an organized specification format, the time has come to conduct an informal walk-thru or specification "test drive".
This walk-thru approach to reviewing each designer's work moves the objectives of quality and consistency in the system design phase from simply being wishful thinking to active quality assurance. Also, the specification review sessions can actually be stimulating and fun! Some additional advantages of performing specification "walk-thrus" are listed below:
When creating the appropriate team to participate in each review session, consideration should be given to the participant roles listed below. Depending on program or business requirement complexity, either some, or in many cases all, of the following roles should be filled:
Technical Design Analyst
Since the technical design analyst actually is the person who wrote the specification, obviously he or she should be involved in the walk-thru process. During the review session, he or she is charged with explaining the thinking which went into creating the design, as well as the solution which is embodied in the design specification. As the group discusses the packet, the design analyst is also expected to take notes of any agreed upon detail changes, and incorporate them in the finalized specification version.
If the design analyst was not involved with the business analysis stage, generally it is helpful to have one of the business analysts who was involved in the initial business requirements sessions sit in as a participant in the specification walk-thrus. His or her primary role should be to judge the completeness of the coverage of the known requirements, and to ensure the technical approach contained within the specification makes business sense. The business analyst should also be alert for:
Overall this ensures proper communication between the people analyzing a business situation, and those designing the proper technical solutions.
Specification Team Leader
In addition to providing general support for the design effort, the specification team leader should also be present at the walk-thru:
He or she should maintain discipline and focus throughout the walk-thru. The session should be fun, but it should also be serious. The team leader should also keep the spirit of the review a quest for quality and completeness, rather than chance to criticise and belittle.
If the situation seems appropriate, it may make sense to invite one or more business clients to a particular specification walk-thru. This is especially true if a complex business algorithm or a vital business calculation is being reviewed. The role of the business client in this situation is to review and approve the presented design approach. Taking this precaution minimizes the risk of invalid programming during the construction of the system, and thus minimizes the potential for rework.
Once the walk-thru has been completed, no more open design issues should exist for the specification, and the program should be considered to be ready for coding or generation. Otherwise, another follow-up review may be called for.