Lessons from Document Reviews

I produce and review a good number of Scoping, Analysis and Design documents for various CRM Projects – and once a document has been circulated, we will undertake a review period between ourselves and the client to collect feedback from the areas of the business involved. This will then result in the production of a revised version of the document to incorporate any amendments to the scope or design before progressing to the next stage in the project.

The following is a few bullet points of lessons learned based on seeing how clients read and review these documents after publication:

Diagrams – document reviewers almost always provide better feedback based on diagrams than large blurbs of text. Got a business process to describe, put in a diagram first and then have the detail backed up by text.

Don’t Duplicate – repetition in documents is sometimes difficult to avoid, however keeping this to a minimum will save review time in amending the same point several times.

How do I read this? – remember that just because you’ve produced dozens of Analysis/Design documents in a familiar format your client has not, include a small section detailing how to read the document clarifying any terms for how requirements are prioritised or categorised.  Even common concepts such as MoSoCoW (Must-do, Should-do, Could-do, Won’t) can be off-putting without first being described.

What do I read in this? – often Analysis/Design documents can be very long with detail aimed at all sorts of audiences, remember to detail who should be reviewing which sections.

Terminology – the document is for your audience, use their terminology and not yours (and particularly not the softwares!). If you need to introduce new terminology for business change, make sure the meaning is clear and explained.

Playback – have a presentation to introduce your audience to the document visually, this gets people engaged in the process and avoids your audience’s first contact being a weighty document landing on their desk.  I am a big fan of this – if you’ve spent a week’s worth of time documenting a solution, it’s great to play this back to the client team in a more user-friendly hour or two hour session.

This is probably a topic I’ll keep coming back to, as producing quick accurate Scoping and Design documents that avoid the ‘300-page Technical Specification that few dare to read’ tendency is more of an art than a science.

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