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CS605 - Software Engineering II - Lecture Handout 29

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Formal Technical Reviews

Formal Technical Reviews are conducted by software engineers. The primary objective is to find errors during the process so that they do not become defects after release of software as they uncover errors in function, logic design, or implementation. The idea is to have early discovery of errors so they do not propagate to the next step in the process. They also ensure that the software has been represented according to predefined standards and it is developed in a uniform manner. They make projects more manageable and help groom new resources as well as provide backup and continuity.

FTRs include walkthroughs, inspections, and other small group technical assessments of software.

Guidelines for walkthroughs

FTRs are usually conducted in a meeting that is successful only if it is properly planned, controlled, and attended. The producer informs the PM that the WP is ready and the review is needed. The review meeting consists of 3-5 people and advanced preparation is required. It is important that this preparation should not require more than 2 hours of work per person. It should focus on specific (and small) part of the overall software. For example, instead of the entire design, walkthroughs are conducted for each component, or small group of components. By narrowing focus, FTR has a high probability of uncovering errors.

It is important to remember that the focus is on a work product for which the producer of the WP asks the project leader for review. Project leader informs the review leader. The review leader evaluates the WP for readiness and if satisfied generates copies of review material and distributes to reviewers for advanced  preparation. The agenda is also prepared by the review leader.

Review Meetings

Review meeting is attended by the review leader, all reviewers, and the producer. One of the reviewer takes the roles of recorder. Producer walks through the product, explaining the material while other reviewers raise issues based upon their advanced preparation. When valid problems or errors are recorded, the recorder notes each one of them. At the end of the RM, all attendees of the meeting must decide whether to:

  • Accept the product without further modification
  • Reject the product due to severe errors
    • Major errors identified
    • Must review again after fixing
  • Accept the product provisionally
    • Minor errors to be fixed
    • No further review

Review Reporting and Record keeping

During the FTR the recorder notes all the issues. They are summarized at the end and a review issue list is prepared. A summary report is produced that includes:

    • What is reviewed
    • Who reviewed it
    • What were the findings and conclusions
    It then becomes part of project historical record.

    The review issue list

    It is sometimes very useful to have a proper review issue list. It has two objectives.

      • Identify problem areas within the WP
      • Action item checklist
      It is important to establish a follow-up procedure to ensure that items on the issue list have been properly addressed.

      Review Guidelines

      It is essential to note that an uncontrolled review can be worse than no review. The basis principle is that the review should focus on the product and not the producer so that it does not become personal. Remember to be sensitive to personal egos. Errors should be pointed out gently and the tone should be loose and constructive.

      This can be achieved by setting an agenda and maintaining it. In order to do so, the review team should:

      • Avoid drift
      • Limit debate and rebuttal
      • Enunciate problem areas but don’t try to solve all problems
      • Take written notes
      • Limit the number of participants and insist upon advanced preparation
      • Develop a checklist for each product that is likely to be reviewed
      • Allocate resources and schedule time for FTRs
      • Conduct meaningful training for all reviewers
      • Review your early reviews
      • Determine what approach works best for you