Improving the review process with wikis and project management tools

How often have you had the following experience?

You send an important document out to reviewers... they respond with conflicting edits. You follow up with them via email to resolve the open issues... and they reply with more conflicting edits.

Then you run around in person trying to get some answers they can agree on only to find one of your reviewers has left for vacation.

This is when you start reconsidering your career and thinking seriously about that taxi driver position in Siberia that you turned down.

Why reviews are tedious

Let's break down the problem.

  • Reviewing in print doesn't allow reviewers to compare notes or see each other's edits.
  • Electronically routed reviews do not allow the first reviewer to see what the last reviewer has changed.
  • Often the wrong people are included in reviews.
  • Scheduling issues make it difficult to receive all reviewer comments in a timely fashion.

Wow. That's a lot of headaches.

A better approach?

Reviews don't have to hurt. Wikis and web-based project management tools can address most of these issues.

Wikis, as well as the document repositories in web-based project management tools, allow reviewers to log in and view your document in its current state.

If a reviewer makes some changes, they can log in again later to see how those changes were impacted by later reviews. They can make more edits if they wish. The latest version is always available.

The discussion tab in a wiki or web-based project management tool allows reviewers to communicate about suggested changes. All issues are resolved right in the open for anyone to see. This eliminates the need for the writer to act as a moderator. You may still need to ask reviewers to clarify something or come to a consensus, but you can do so from the comfort of your office chair and trust that everyone had equal opportunity to respond.

Deadlines are helpful. Tell your reviewers to log in and make their changes, discuss any issues amongst themselves, and come to a conclusion by the end of the day (or whenever) so that you can finalize and publish the document. A wiki takes the pressure of the writer by giving reviewers the tools they need to come to a consensus.

Wikis and project management tools also make it easy to include all relevant people in the review. Anyone with access rights can log in and participate, and a firm deadline will keep even a larger number of reviewers on task.

You'll still have some difficult issues to resolve now and then. For example, if your SME is on vacation and can't log into the wiki, you won't get a review. But wikis and project management tools can take a lot of the pain out of the review process.

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