The global workforce is here to stay. Project teams are spread across multiple time zones with few or no overlapping workday hours. When team members are located in Australia, China, India, Europe, and across all US time zones, it becomes unrealistic to hold the team meeting part of the inspection process. So, how can we adapt team meetings to our global reality?
Before we change a working process to meet the new environment, we need to know how and why it works in the current environment. To fully understand the problem, we need to look at why the team meeting was included in the inspection process. Why not just distribute the work product, have people review it, and gather comments?
Twentieth Century Process
The team meeting in the inspection process has evolved into two variants, often denoted as the Fagan method  and the Gilb method .  In the Fagan method, after individual preparation, the team meets to read through the work product, noting and recording defects. In the Gilb method, after individual preparation, the team meets to record defects without reading the work product. In both methods, team consensus (ideally) results in an agreed upon defect list for the author to fix, with relatively few open issues. There have been numerous analyses of the effectiveness and efficiency of the contrasting meeting methods, but my experience has been that either method works—as long as you pay attention to the fundamental requirements of the process.
However, when you consider that the number one reason inspections become ineffective is the lack of adequate individual preparation, the team meeting in the Fagan method provides a safety net. The reading of the work product slows the review rate and allows the team to find many of the defects that would have been noted in individual preparation. Additionally, those team members who consistently do not identify defects in the team meeting are subject to some amount of peer pressure to improve their performance. In either method there is a process step that calls for the moderator to postpone the inspection until sufficient preparation effort has been spent.
Adapting to the Twenty-first Century
Considering the above points, we can build a list of requirements that enable inspections across multiple time zones without the need for a face-to-face or teleconferenced team meeting.
- Record potential defects found by each team member
- Record effort spent by each team member
- Replace the “consensus” step in the team meeting
- Maintain the peer pressure that exists in the current method
There are commercially available tools as well as proprietary tools that help us accomplish these requirements. Let’s look at the steps involved with using these tools to aid in inspections.
- Record each potential defect and its location in the work product to allow for sorting and identification of duplicate defects. Satisfies requirement: A
- Record the person identifying the defect and effort spent. Satisfies requirements: B, D
- Note whether the defect severity is “major,” “minor,” or “issue.” (Issue is often allowed as a choice when the reviewer cannot determine the impact.) Satisfies requirements: A
- Describe the defect. Satisfies requirements: A, C
- Optionally, hide the defect list until all inspectors have completed their preparation, so the moderator can make all defects visible for team review. Satisfies requirement: D
- Include an “accept,” “reject,” or “duplicate” disposition by the author. Satisfies requirement: C
- Insert a resolution field to describe the fix (or reason for rejecting the defect) and the reply by the defect originator if he does not agree with the rejection. Satisfies requirement: C
- Provide a closed indicator. Satisfies requirement: C
Steps one through