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Robert MacFarland, Ericsson Ltd.
The effective use of reviews and inspections (R&I)
was one of a number of initiatives chosen within a program
to increase the improvement pace globally in order to reduce
costs. This was achieved by reducing the time to market
and increasing the quality of software produced.
This case study reports on the effort made to spread the
use of R&I throughout Ericsson, a large multinational
telecommunications company, over a number of years. The
struggles, successes, and lessons learned from this experience
Among the innovative ideas employed were: the use of local
design centers to peer review and assess each others
progress; multinational process teams to make use of global
competence; packaging improvements to accommodate cultural
differences; and the importance of supporting infrastructure
and local champions.
Key words: change management, culture, global business,
process improvement, promotion
It is well known today that it is difficult to implement
successful improvement programs that deliver lasting results.
Most improvement programs, unfortunately, end in failure.
The difficulty is in building the necessary infrastructure
and developing a culture that supports getting new working
methods adopted and practiced successfully. This could be
due to the fact that often within large multinational organizations
there are "flavor of the month" type improvement
programs that receive corporate sponsorship. These, unfortunately,
have the habit of coming and going before delivering their
This article tells the story of Ericsson, which has unfolded
over a period of five years. It describes an initiative that
has continually striven to get the reviews and inspections
(R&I) processes and procedures it has developed adopted
within Ericsson as the normal way of doing business. The possible
reasons for the success experienced as a result of this initiative
include the way the improvement was organized and introduced
to users, together with the suitability of the improvements
outputs to address users real needs.
The author hopes that this case study will not only benefit
readers who are involved in the promotion and implementation
of R&I in their own organizations, but also those who
are charged more generally with introducing changes in whatever
methods their company may employ.
THE COMPANYS MOTIVATION TO CHANGE
During 1995, within Ericssons Public Network Switching
organization, it was generally recognized that for operations
to remain profitable, a breakthrough was needed. It was agreed
that the reason for this state of affairs was the long project
schedule overruns and the resulting poor software product
It was also agreed that the causes of these problems had to
be eliminated, and in response, representatives from 14 local
design centers (LDCs) who were involved in creating the software,
were asked to come and contribute ideas. A three-day workshop
was held to help identify the necessary improvements. The
solutions identified at that meeting resulted in the establishment
of the following improvement teams: incremental development,
teamwork, processes, methods and tools, and R&I.
A LARGE-SCALE IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE PROGRAM
The previously mentioned initiative teams were part of an
overall initiative program called "Time to Market 15
Months." This initiative was sponsored by Goran Ohlsson,
the responsible product provisioning manager. At that time,
the program was managed centrally from the Swedish headquarters
as a set of focused improvement teams.
The various LDCs were visited and asked to offer participants
who were interested and competent in the specified improvement
areas. In hindsight this was probably one of the factors for
the successful introduction of the improvement initiatives
outputs. The LDCs, as the customers for implementing the improvements,
had a say in and were involved in the actual development of
the improvements. This helped break down the "not invented
here" barrier and meant that on the local level they
saw peers from other design centers involved in developing
the improvements rather than just the involvement of the companys
Establishment of R&I Team
The names of the volunteers from the LDCs were put forward,
short listed, and formed into teams, with one design center
performing the leader role and administrative duties. The
R&I team consisted of six or seven members from five different
countries, mainly Northern Europe. During January 1996 the
R&I team discussed its ideas for implementation by first
conducting a detailed analysis of the features and usage of
the different types of R&I at the various design centers.
In February 1996 a road show was set up in conjunction with
the other improvement teams to visit the design centers participating
in the next major project. The teams presented their suggestions
for improvements, and the views of the design centers were
collected. The R&I competence team visited 15 design centers
in 10 different countries. Apart from the presentations at
the LDCs, the use of R&I at the LDCs was examined and
their areas of interest for support and further development
were evaluated and discussed with a nominated representative
at the LDC. It should be noted that these local representatives
who were responsible for R&I later formed the backbone
of the "champions" network.
The results of the interviews were analyzed, and areas of
improvement were prioritized. Suitable documents already available
were identified. These were modified to produce a comprehensive
package that consisted of R&I planning guidelines, work
instructions for review procedures, inspection process improvements,
data capture, and data analysis guidance. As a result of the
analysis of the interviews, it was also concluded that there
was tremendous inconsistency in the types of R&I used
at Ericsson, as well as a wide range in the maturity level
of the implementation of the R&I process being employed.
It was concluded that R&I education was to be a vital
area to address the issues currently being raised.
R&I Definitions as Used by the Initiative
Reviews and inspections are two terms that are
normally and wrongfully interchangeable. The benefits that
reviews and inspections provide are often diminished because
these two different types of evaluations are not used to their
A review is an evaluation of the software element(s) or project
status to ascertain discrepancies from planned results and
to recommend improvements. Different review methods have
different purposes and they complement inspections.
Many different review methods have been used in Ericsson without
common terminology. The R&I initiative selected and recommended
some review methods to be used during the development of design
in conjunction with the inspection process. These are termed
Frequent reviews. These reviews focus
on finding defects during the development of a document or
design. Each review examines only new, changed, or influenced
design. The review includes verifying compliance to applicable
rules, procedures, and methods.
These internal reviews focus on early defect detection and feedback,
and are performed while the document is under development. An
inspection, on the other hand, is normally held when the document
Walkthroughs. These are similar to a lecture
and are used to obtain early feedback and consider alternative
solutions. The author of the design leads the audience through
a document and the audience actively participates in asking
questions, raising concerns, and commenting on the presented
solution, possible defects, and so on.
One-third presentations. These are particularly
useful in new design. They are held when the author of the
document or design has a good understanding of the problem
to solve and has developed a preliminary solution for it (usually
about one-third of the way through the project). The document
itself does not necessarily need to be presented because there
are other possible means to present the proposed solution.
An inspection is a formal evaluation technique in which
software requirements, design, or code are examined in detail
by more than one person to detect defects, violations of development
standards, and other problems. The review performed to technically
approve a document by the system group is called an external
review. It is carried out after the document has exited
from an inspection.
parallel to the development of the process, a training course
was developed that consisted of slides and documents. These
were available on the Ericsson intranet to be either downloaded
and given as part of a traditional course or to be used for
self-study in association with the guide that was produced for
that purpose. Thirty champions from various design centers participated
in the training during August and September 1996. It was their
job to assist with planning and training at their LDC and to
provide on-site support for the R&I process (see
Figure 1). The R&I competence team provided detailed
specialist knowledge backup support to these local champions
(see Figure 2).
To be offered any support from the R&I initiative, each
participating design center was required to produce an implementation
plan detailing how it would implement the various elements of
the R&I improvement package. The competence team member
allocated to support the design center reviewed the plan and
checked that the implementation fulfilled the minimum requirements
necessary, and the support provided was sufficient to ensure
The minimum implementation requirements are:
A baseline of compliance with the proposed
Planning performed with planning constants
All moderators and checkers have received training
in the selected review and inspection methods
Data collection performed to aid process control
Project manager participates in the implementation
Establishing the Champions Network
After planning R&I activities within the LDC, subprojects
were completed. A two-day forum was held in Brighton, England,
in October 1996 between those actively involved and was overseen
by consultant Dot Graham. At the forum the various LDCs
implementation plans were presented and workshops were held
to identify what effective support could be given toward the
conclusion of the forum was that there was still a need for
a common understanding between the champions. A weeklong forum
was then arranged to be held in Rome in March 1997 with consultant
Tom Gilb. Training was provided by Tom and Kai Gilb to the champions,
and a master class for R&I competence team members was conducted
by Gilb, with further evening presentations from the champions
of their local innovations. See Figure
3 to learn how the various roles within the network interworked.
Reported Outcome of First Year
Apart from the various champion forums and training sessions
held throughout the year, there were also eight R&I competence
team meetings and five common workshops between the various
initiatives. There were 12 implementation plans produced, and
15 design centers ended up implementing the initiative package
to varying degrees within the Helios project (the Helios project
was the major development project used as a pilot for implementing
identified improvements, including R&I).
According to the survey by a team using goal question metrics
(GQM) to measure the impact of the various initiatives, the
level of implementation of the R&I initiative measured from
data received by 10 design centers was 57 percent (MacFarland
1997). The improvement program also arranged an experience exchange
with the Helios main project team, and the feedback given was
generally favorable toward the R&I initiative, resulting
in recommendation of the result of the R&I initiative to
THE SPREADING OF IMPROVEMENT TO OTHER PROJECTS
It was decided to improve and encourage the implementation of
the R&I initiative along with some of the other initiatives
undertaken by the switching organization. This was carried out
via a new program, which was also sponsored by Goran Ohlsson,
titled the "Model, Master, Apprentice" program.
The principal strategy for R&I to achieve this goal was
in getting the package of improvements that were developed during
the initiative incorporated within the Ericsson standard process
suite used in the design of the software for Ericssons
latest switch. An expanded R&I competence team was established
based upon the original, and now included members from Southern
Europe, the United States, and Australia. They were given the
task of developing and supporting this globally.
Local Design Champions
The LDC managers were asked to nominate champions who would
motivate the implementation, not just within one project but
within all local projects. They were asked to ensure that the
correct support structure was in place to carry this out successfully
and to document this in an updated implementation plan.
Promoting the Initiative
In May 1997, the R&I competence team, with the help of consultant
John Mattock, produced a promotional package. The promotional
package was carefully constructed so that selected parts of
the argument put forward were aimed at different target groups.
This was to persuade as many of the audiences as possible to
adopt the outputs from the R&I initiativeto achieve
a "critical mass" of adopters. Use was made not only
of logical arguments of why the changes were needed, but pictorial
"hooks" were also embedded so that they bypassed the
normal filters of the left side of the brain and were then retained
in the memory.
Shortly later, Mattock provided training in change management
to the R&I competence team and local champions. He also
addressed how to present and argue the case for R&I through
role-play of the different intended target groups. Because of
the popularity of Mattocks facilitation skills in making
the forums "fun," he has consequently helped plan,
organize, and facilitate most of the R&I champion forums.
Level of Design Center Adoption
Of the 24 LDCs associated with the switching organization, 21
applied to become apprentices as part of the R&I initiative.
Fifteen LDCs actually provided implementation plans detailing
how they would implement and support R&I.
The adoption of "Model, Master, Apprentice" R&I
as a good practice by the Ericsson corporate best-practice improvement
initiative helped capture data gained from the LDCs and produced
success stories and return on investment (ROI) figures, which
were also incorporated into the promotion package.
Observed Results for Second Year
the results from implementing inspections from the LDC of the
author during 1997, see Figure
4. These are as reported by the local champion Jonathan
Clark (no data available for benefits of reviews) in (Clark
1997). The figures give a return-on-investment (ROI) figure
of 4-to-1. This design center calculated its savings based on
the assumption that each major defect discovered saved 10 design
The inspection process employed at the design center also asked
the designer who discovered the defect to estimate how much
savings he or she thought discovering the defect would provide.
Not surprisingly, this came to a figure similar to 10 hours,
as all the designers had undergone the same training. This training
defined a major defect as one that is considered to give a savings
of approximately 10 hours or more.
More significant, however, is the fact that the other success
stories calculated their savings from inspections by a different
method based on the estimation of the savings due to reduction
in the rework cost of implementing the associated trouble reports
and corrections. The range of ROI figures obtained by the other
success stories ( 4-to-1, 5-to-1, and 6-to-1) are similar to
the 4-to-1 figure mentioned previously, thus supporting and
validating both methods of calculating the benefit.
Assessment of LDC
The champions received three days of auditing/assessment training
from consultant Nigel Bauer in October 1997 to further encourage
implementation. The intention was for the LDCs to assess each
others practice of R&I on a peer-review basis. Toward
the end of 1997 the first LDC assessment was conducted, which
was perceived as beneficial for motivating further improvement.
Other design centers were encouraged to carry out further assessment
of each others practice of R&I.
Because of the changing face of sponsorship, in 1998 the master
LDC for R&I was appointed by Marie Olofsson (who was then
responsible for development process management) to act as process
owner for R&I within Public Networks Switching. The main
function of the role was to help further institutionalize the
The assignment also required that the R&I champions network
be kept running, with newsletters and twice-yearly self-financing
forums for experience sharing between champions. External keynote
speakers recognized as being leading experts in the field have
always been invited. Creating and maintaining a Web page dedicated
to support the R&I network was also included in the assignment.
It should be noted that now the adoption of the methods and
participation of the LDCs within the network was voluntary as
a result in the change of focus of the master role. It was no
longer a requirement from the master process owners for LDCs
to provide implementation plans detailing their level of R&I
implementation. The level of local practice was now seen as
their own responsibility. This move toward local ownership of
their R&I practice has continued. Institutionalizing the
process meant ensuring that they were:
Defined and documented
CHANGE IN STANDARD PROCESS OWNER
Practiced and enforced
Measured and improved
Within Ericsson in 1999 there was a move away from the use of
its own standard proprietary processes to making more use of
externally available commercial tools and processes to help
with the development of open systems for the future.
An agreement was made between Rational and Ericsson to make
available supply support, and provide training of Rational Unified
Processes to the users within Ericsson. This resulted in a major
change in the "ownership" of the proprietary processes.
Ericsson Business Consulting took over the responsibility for
part of these. This was to ensure that the legacy systems that
generated much of Ericssons revenue at the time were still
The authors LDC was given an assignment from Ericsson
Business Consulting to supply support to the users and act as
mentor to the new owner of the R&I process. This was because
this process was based upon the Public Networks Switching R&I
process of which the LDC had previously been acting as developer
Part of the assignment received was also keeping the R&I
network alive as previously described, except in a larger capacity,
as the scope covered both the wireline (fixed network) and wireless
(mobile) areas of Ericssons organization. Supporting this
expanded area, however, was made easier because of the merging
of the wireless and wireline design centers operations
resources, leading to a distribution of the R&I champions
to cover both previous areas.
At the forums and also from the communications received during
1999 from the R&I champions representing both wireline and
wireless, it was good to see that both organizations held similar
views and had the same needs. This made it easier to support
At the R&I Champions forum in Umea, Sweden, it was agreed
that the benefits that could be gained from implementing R&I
were available to a much wider scope of applications than just
design. It was also agreed that to keep up with the changing
development environment, it was necessary to update the R&I
process so it supported R&I of artifacts produced from a
In the end, the champions network agreed that a generic Ericsson
R&I process needed to be developed that supported R&I
of all types of outputs, including those from modeling, and
that it should be adopted for use by all those currently working
ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
In early 2000 Ericsson Business Consulting secured the funding
to begin a project to produce a generic process framework that
could provide assets for implementation of the R&I in any
conceivable situation. The subsequent project was called "Gforce"
and its goal was to produce an R&I framework for supporting
application by organizations of differing levels of R&I
process maturity. This was to ensure that as many design centers
and implementation projects would be able to make use of the
with Hans Ohrvall, the R&I process product manager, the
Gforce competence team was established consisting of interested
champions from the United States, Netherlands, Spain, Ireland,
England, Croatia, and Sweden. To keep the costs of developing
this new process framework down, many of the former R&I
process elements would be reused (see
Figure 5). The solution enabled the team to capitalize on
recent improvements developed locally, as most LDCs used the
old R&I process as their base and published their processes
on the Web, thus making their identification and transfer easier.
A similar approach and structure was adopted by the Gforce project
as the initial R&I initiative, namely by involving the LDCs
with the review and development of the new process artifacts.
Part of this approach involved the trial of the preliminary
versions of the outputs at the last R&I champion forum,
which was held at Tilberg in the Netherlands in September 2000.
Ericsson Business Consulting discontinued operations at the
end of 2000. The part of that organization that formally owned
the R&I process, as well as other selected parts of the
former processes, was transferred to a new operation called
Ericsson Process & Applications Consulting (EPAC).
Piloting of the process, tools, and training is currently being
undertaken, and feedback from the pilots will be presented at
the next R&I champions forum to be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia,
in May 2001. It is hoped that Ericsson having its own propriety
world-class R&I process framework will provide the company
with a business advantage resulting from its implementation.
EPAC is keen on establishing the Ericsson Review and Inspection
Academy, offering support to the local champions and providing
them implementation advice, as well as making contacts and partnerships
with leading institutions and consultants in the field. One
of the main goals of the Gforce project was to align the process,
tools, and training. The next step will be to unify these into
a simplified, fully automated paper-less tool solution that
addresses all needs of the users. A prestudy will be made to
specify and analyze what is involved in its production.
It is gratifying to see just how many LDC R&I processes
today are based upon the former R&I process. This is in
spite of the fact that there is no longer a central improvement
program driving membership; now all participants do so voluntarily.
Despite this, all forums are self-financing, and the R&I
champions network is lively and well subscribed. One reason
for this could be that the network acts as a reference group
on behalf of the users toward the corporate standard R&I
process owner and helps to suggest, participate, and direct
Many of the most motivated LDCs participating within the network
are now assessed internally within Ericsson as at level 3 of
the Software Capability Maturity Model (CMM®). The measurements
aspects, process improvement, and root-cause analysis capability
of the R&I package are becoming more important as the LDCs
strive toward CMM levels 4 and 5 and may require still further
It is to this end that the major update currently being undertaken
by the Gforce project is to keep the process relevant in todays
paperless model-based development environments starting to incorporate
already identified improvements necessary for CMM level 4 and
Following are some of the lessons learned from the R&I initiative:
Do not just produce process improvements
without ensuring that adequate support is provided long term
for their introduction, as the competence and processes have
to be developed and it takes time for results to bear fruit.
Ensure dialogue is established with the intended users
so that what is produced serves the purposes of the users.
For a global solution, the finished product and implementation
must be flexible enough to allow for cultural differences
in their ways
The benefits of utilizing the improvement must be promoted
and communicated to all target groups.
Every possible means of communicationfrom newsletters,
presentations, memos, phone calls, publications, and direct
contactmust be used with details of success stories
using real data.
The use of local champions supporting and promoting
the improvement is vital, as well as having a network set-up
between them and the competence team for communication, exchange
of ideas, feedback, and recruitment into the competence team
from enthusiastic champions.
The selected use of consultants using their areas of
expertise to supplement and enhance the skills and company
knowledge of the competence team.
Highly motivated members of the competence team have
a great impact on a successful outcome.
The fairly low 4-to-1 ROI figure reported in (Clark 1997)
is due to the fact that the high initial implementation costs
were included within the calculation. The ROI figure for subsequent
periods can be expected to be more favorable, especially with
the introduction of process improvement and root-cause analysis
within their inspection process by certain LDCs.
In spite of this, assume the figure for the master LDC is
representative of savings obtained per LDC for calculation
purposes. Then a "guess" can be made of the potential
total savings gained from implementing the R&I initiative
globally (assuming 20 LDCs both official and unofficial participate)
over the last five years using the following formula:
Number of design centers x expected savings per year x number
of years = total savings, so 20 x $1894.2K x 5 = $189.4M This
rough-and-ready calculation, while extrapolated from only
one local champions figures for the year 1997, is certainly
valid to within + $150M (supported by other LDCs reporting
figures obtained for their ROI ranging from 4-to-1 to 6-to-1
based on real rework cost reductions calculations).
In summary, taking a ballpark figure for the central corporate
sponsorship funding to be around $1.4M figure + $0.7
M to seed corn the local R&I initiatives globally over
the last five years certainly proves the case that whichever
way one looks at these figures, from the corporate global
perspective, a very good return on investment has been obtained.
It should be noted, however, that R&I is the only one
of the original initiatives that is still operating in a similar
manner as it was originally.
Clark, J. 1997. The economics of inspections for ETL/XD in
1997. ETL/XD/BZ-97:137, Rev A. Internal Ericsson Ltd. document.
MacFarland, R. 1997. Final report, TTM 15 reviews and
inspections group. ETL/XD/DZ-97:131, Rev A. Internal Ericsson
Robert MacFarland joined Ericsson in June 1981 as a
software system engineer. He later became a programmer and
project manager. In 1994 he began working as a member of the
software engineering process group as a principal process
engineer. He spent much of his time helping to drive the introduction
of CMM into Ericssons local design centers. During this
period he acted as a leader of the R&I team. Since January
2001 MacFarland has been employed as a senior consultant within
Ericsson Process and Applications Consulting, mainly working
with reviews and inspections in different development environments.
He can be reached at Ericsson Ltd., Ericsson Way, Burgess
Hill, West Sussex, RH15 9UB England, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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