Do you shadow Spec Reviews?

Last updated by Ulysses Maclaren [SSW] 18 days ago.See history

Spec Reviews are a vital part of architecting a new solution for a client, they are the plans upon which a new project is modeled. They serve as a key stage in the pre-sales process for software development consultancies as they create an opportunity for the developers to demonstrate expertise and provide immediate value to the client. For these reasons alone, it is evident that those who are assigned to carry out this exercise must be well-trained in the matter.

Importance of Specification Reviews

As the documentation delivered at the end of the Spec Review is the foundation upon which the project is built, it is imperative that the proposed solution meets the client's needs as closely as possible, this includes proposing the correct choice of technologies (factoring in their budget from corridor conversations) and providing realistic estimates of time required per resource.

Involving developers with no experience in Spec Reviews can lead to significant issues; underestimates, a misunderstanding of the right tech for the job, or a miscommunication between the developer and the client could all have huge implications on the success of the project down the line. This highlights the need for a structured training approach.

Learning Through Shadowing

Shadowing two experienced developers during a Spec Review is the most effective training method, providing real-world experience that allows the trainee to get stuck in and learn the process hands-on.

Figure: Shadowing is the best way to learn

A developer who is shadowing should incur no cost to the client, this should allow the trainee to feel less pressured to perform, creating a healthy environment for them to learn. This also means the client to gains value, as they are getting an additional skilled resource at no additional cost.

Required Shadowing and Assistance

Before being able to partake in an unsupervised Spec Review, the trainee developer must complete 2 phases of training:

  1. Shadowing Phase: Developers must shadow at least 1 Spec Review, observing and understanding the review's different aspects - they will act as a 'third' resource, assisting the other developers at no additional cost to the client.
  2. Assistance Phase: Developers must then assist in at least 1 Spec Review as a 'secondary' developer, applying their observations and understanding their role in the process - they will be a billable resource, but will follow the lead of another experienced developer.

After successfully completing the shadowing and assistance phases, developers are ready to conduct Spec Reviews independently, equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience.


If an Account Manager wants to add an additional dev to shadow a Spec Review, they should get cross-approval from another Account Manager, to make sure it's necessary.

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