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Peer Review Sophistication Scale

Figure 2–2 depicts a scale of an organization's sophistication in its practice of software peer reviews (for a similar scale, see Grady 1997). The value added to the organization is greater at the higher stages. Use this scale to calibrate your organization's current review performance and see what it would take to enhance it.

Figure 2–2. Peer review sophistication scale

In the worst case (stage 0), no one in the organization performs reviews. Stage 1 is a small advance, with team members holding impromptu "over-the-shoulder" reviews. Perhaps the team members haven't heard about peer reviews or don't think they have time to do them. They might have rejected reviews as inappropriate for their project for some reason.

At stage 2, team members periodically hold unstructured reviews. The participants might not realize there are different types of peer reviews. They have not adopted a common review vocabulary or process. They might hold a walkthrough or other informal review and call it an inspection, even though it did not conform to an actual inspection process. The team's review objectives include both finding defects and exchanging knowledge.

By stage 3, the project team holds reviews routinely. They are built into the project schedule and the team understands how to perform structured, formal reviews such as inspections. The organization has adopted a peer review process that incorporates multiple review methods, using standard forms and defect checklists. You don't need to start at the bottom of the scale, so aim to begin at least at stage 3, incorporating inspections into routine practice. This will keep you from getting stuck at a lower level and missing out on the full benefits of formal peer reviews.

The most successful organizations reach stage 4, which represents a paradigm shift to a new way for the organization to create software products. Stage 4 organizations have established an official inspection program, staffed with a peer review coordinator and managed by a peer review process owner (see Chapter 10). They have identified the various kinds of work products that will be inspected. All participants and managers are trained in inspection. The review coordinator verifies that inspections are conducted as scheduled and collects data from them. These data are analyzed for product quality assessment, process improvement, and defect prevention. Inspections are recognized as critical contributors to project success, and the team members would not be comfortable working in an environment where peer review was not a standard practice.

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