Document Review Process
- By Ivan Walsh
The Document Review Process should be simple, right? Writers and editors work together as a team, review different parts of the document, revise what needs to be changed, and then get it signed off. In theory, that’s how it works. In reality, it’s more difficult. Let’s look at some of the barriers to reviewing documents effectively.
Document Review Process: What’s Involved?
The Document Review Process is a framework for reviewing business, legal, and technical documents in a more structured, process-driven manner. For example, the process of document reviews may include procedures for conducting interviews, peer reviews, and walk-throughs of how the subject matter works. The process of reviewing documents also involves setting up guidelines, samples, and best practices for other document reviewers involved in writing, editing, and proofing documentation.
Document Review Process Model
Here are three examples of how the Document Review Process works:
- Document Review Workflow – This defines how the document review process works. The review is a series of steps; for instance, steps to ensure the documents are reviewed, edited, and written correctly. In the paper-based world, the document review process includes hard copies that are printed out and reviewed manually.
- Document Peer Reviews – The focus of the Document Review Process is to get team members to review and approve documents. This involves sending comments, feedback and notifications from the Document Management System to the peer review team, i.e. those involved in the review process. Comments may also be embedded in the review documentation during this process.
- Technical Document Review Process – For this, you need to define the document review process during the project-planning phase, for example, when writing a set of technical documents. This gives you adequate time in the project schedule for all document reviews to be completed on schedule.
Sample Document Review Process
If this is your first time designing a document review process, identify the main tasks first and be very clear about each person’s role. Design the workflow so that dependencies and expectations are clearly understood and there are no expectations or ‘assumptions’ from team members. Everyone should understand their role.
When designing your document review process and its workflow, consider these steps:
- Identify prerequisites for the review process, e.g. best practices, format, and guidelines. Design the initiation form, i.e. how the process will start. For examples, create guidelines for Technical Document Reviews and other documents that will help others get started.
- Identify the Document Owner. This is usually self-evident but there may be exceptions, for example, the Document Manager (e.g. who may be in charge of a team of 10 writers) might assign different Document Owners for different projects, e.g. Kevin to be in charge of User Guides, Tina in charge of Media Kit etc.
- Assign tasks to the Document Reviewers and send email notifications that the document has been assigned to them. This creates expectations and also helps them track their time.
- Design a secondary workflow for review tasks.
- Assign tasks to the Final Reviewer, i.e. document approver. This person is authorized to sign off on the document. They may be the Document Owner, a subject matter expert, for example, the development manager, or the client.
- Design a secondary workflow for the final review tasks.
- Determine whether the Final Reviewer approved the document. If not, identify the next steps. This means that if they didn’t approve the document, (for example, specific changes need to be made), how will you update the document to incorporate their concerns or recommendations.
- Determine how the final document will be shared. Once you have completed the review, identify a location from where the document can be accessed.
Software Document Review Procedure
The document review report is the outcome of the document review process. This provides the input for deciding the next step in the lifecycle of the document you have reviewed. The review process is then refined based on feedback received during the review from others members of the Peer Review team and others involved in the project.
First Level Document Reviews For Legal Firms
In the legal industry, the basics of legal process outsourcing, particularly first level document review involves.
- First Level Document Review – This is part of the discovery process in litigation, contracts, mergers and acquisitions.
- Legal Document Reviews – First level document reviews are a time-consuming process which requires trained attorneys and paralegals to review sensitive legal and business documents.
- Categorizing Documentation – This involves reviewing documents and categorizing them as responsive, non-responsive, privilege, non-privilege, privilege-work product, and confidential.
- Reducing Potential Costs – Errors are very costly. For example, when attorneys make mistakes during the document review process, it can undermine their client’s ability to win their lawsuits. To address this, legal firms are adopting Document Collaboration applications so they can share, review, and edit legal documents more effectively.
Due to increases in litigation, the Document Review Process has become an integral part of the legal industry, incurring almost sixty percent of the total cost of litigation.
There’s always a ‘trial and error’ period when embracing new technologies. We like to explore what works for us, define new processes, and use it as often as possible. Document collaboration is no different.
The process of reviewing documents - whether offline or online - benefits from a structured review framework. This allows you to improve the review workflow, identify steps, communication better with the peer review team, and ensure that the quality of your documents (business, legal, and technical) are improved during this process. It’s all about making a starting, defining goals you can measure (for example, turnaround times for reviews), and encouraging others to use the tools. Once you do this, you can tweak the workflow, share lessons learned, and make it easier for others to contribute.