Performing Design Reviews

An essential part of any design process is reviewing its progress and validity at key development stages, whether this takes the form of collaborative peer discussions or rigid sign-off mechanisms. Inherent in that process, at whatever level, is providing access to all relevant project data, files, comments, visual representations and feedback tools needed by the target reviewer(s).

Altium Designer provides this capability in a highly flexible form through the application of review Process Workflows that are hosted by a connected Workspace and accessed from within Altium Designer.

► For more information on processes and their workflows, see Creating & Managing Processes (Altium 365 Workpace, Enterprise Server Workspace).

The process workflows incorporate interactive forms that are presented to the user as they progress through the process flow steps and provide the opportunity to comment, attach files, view design documents, and much more. Review processes may be started by any Altium Designer user that has access to the project, and are assigned to other users (Team members) or groups of users (team Roles).

On the Workspace side, an administrator works with processes as diagram-based flows where the user forms and steps incorporated into the flows are fully customizable. This allows for very specific processes, say, that target established company review requirements, to be constructed (and enforced) if required. Any number of workflow processes can be created.

► For more information, see Defining a Process Workflow (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace).

Review Processes

The Workspace offers three default review processes that may be accessed as supplied or used as the basis of more advanced custom processes:

  • Ad Hoc Review – An informal review process without a logged conclusion.
  • Handoff Review – A more formal review process where the review initiator (submitter) logs a pass/fail (Completed/Rejected) conclusion when closing the review. A completed status indicates that the design is ready to be handed off to the next development stage.
  • Milestone Review – A more elaborate closed loop review process where the submitter uses the review feedback to decide if the status is Completed, Rejected or the design should be corrected (Reworked). In the latter case, the reworked design is then verified and the Completed/Rejected/Rework decision is repeated. The review would be closed when the aim or project milestone is successfully achieved.

In all the above cases both the review submitter/approver (Initiator) and reviewers (Assignees) are guided through the process flow by a sequence of user interface forms. The requirements and options in each of the process flow steps are determined by the matching Process entry in the Workspace, which is in turn managed by the server Administrator – who is also able to both initiate and cancel a review process.

Note that a review initiator also may invoke a review process from the Web Viewer Activities page in the Workspace (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace), and the assigned reviewers can complete their part of the process from the Workspace's Tasks page (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace).

Performing a Review

A review typically takes the form of three sequential stages:

  1. The user who initiates the review (the submitter) defines what will be reviewed and by whom, and adds any data or information that will be needed.
  2. The reviewers access the project data and provide suitable feedback, and if needed, add relevant data or information.
  3. The review approver (usually the initiator) assesses and summarizes the feedback from reviewers and closes off the process.

All stages in a review are represented by a matching Task (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace) in the software's Tasklist panel, which prompts each user that action is required and provides information on completed tasks. Selecting a pending Task will activate that stage of the review.

Initiate and Define Review

A review process is initiated from the Project » Project Activities menu in Altium Designer. The review will initially apply to the currently active project.

Taking the Ad Hoc Review process as an example, in its default unmodified format, the opening form dialog allows the submitter (Barry in the below example) to specify the project that will be reviewed and which users are assigned to complete the review feedback stage.

The entry fields and menus in the Ad Hoc Review dialog are:

  • Request title – the default AUTO mode adopts the process name as the basis of the active process name (the Activity title). A custom name may be entered in its place.
  • Project – the name of the project that will be reviewed. This is the active project when the process is initiated, but any available project can be selected from the type-sensitive drop-down menu options.
  • Description – text to provide further information to reviewers.
  • Reviewers – specified team members or role groups that will be assigned the task of submitting review feedback. Begin typing to see the available entries.

Click the button to commence the process workflow and step to the data definition form.

The following Prepare review data form dialog allows you to specify particular design data resources and add attachments. Note that any form text highlighted in blue is an active link to that source data. The dialog also includes a descriptive flow diagram of the process under the Diagram tab, which also indicates your current position in the flow steps.

Notable options in the form dialog are:

  • Data – use the drop-down menu to select a particular project release dataset (by date), or use the associated option to browse to and select a specific set of release data. In the default state where no data is selected, the reviewer(s) will have access to the project source data only.
  • Attachments – browse to ( ) or drag and drop files that you wish to add as review data or information sources.
During the above Review submission stage, Altium Designer's Tasklist panel will show this as an active Task (Prepare review data), assigned to you. If the stage is interrupted and the current form dialog has been closed, click the Task to reopen the form and continue.

When all review data has been specified or added to the form, click the button to move the process to the Review stage.

At this point the active Prepare review data Task is closed in the Tasklist panel since the review submission stage is complete – note that the Altium Designer user at this point is the review process submitter (Initiator). The ongoing review process is shown in the panel's Activities listing with an active status. Click the button to ensure that you see the latest Activities status.

To view the progress status of the active review process, select its entry in the Activities list to display the current data and the annotated flow diagram (Diagram tab).

Provide Review Feedback

With the review process configured and submitted by the Initiator, the activity will automatically generate Tasks to be completed by those specified as Reviewers. When a Reviewer (say, Norm Smith in this example) then signs in to Altium Designer, the Tasks area will show an assigned Provide review feedback task.

Selecting this Task will activate the Review stage of the process flow for the Reviewer. The following Provide review feedback form dialog offers the relevant project data (as specified by the review submitter), the opportunity to include comments and file attachments or open the project in the Web Viewer ( ) and the requirement to submit a feedback Vote.

Notable options in the Provide Review feedback dialog are:

  • Open Project – select to open the project's design in the Workspace Web Viewer. This provides a wealth of project data and fully rendered interactive views of the design source documents, which allows highlighted comments to be added and optionally assigned to a specific user (Workspace member).
    ► For more information, see the Web Viewer page (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace).
  • Comment – comment notes included here will be attributed to the reviewer's name when the review process is finalized.
  • Vote – select an appropriate summary of the review conclusion.
  • Reviewers attachments – browse to ( ) or drag and drop files, such as more detailed notes or reference documents, that will be included with the review feedback.

Note that any text highlighted in blue is an active link to that source data. Select the button to complete the review process – this is indicated in the Tasklist panel which will close (remove) that active task.

The options and requirements presented in the form dialogs shown here only relate to one example of how a review process behaves and is constructed. Altium Designer Process Workflows, as defined in the connected Workspace, are extremely flexible and can be used to create highly elaborate process activities that will be available to Altium Designer.

Summarize and Close Review

When all specified Reviewers have completed the review feedback tasks assigned to them, the active Review process moves to its summarize/close stage. A Summarize review task is generated for the user assigned to assess the review activity – in this case, Barry, the same user that submitted (initiated) the review. Note that for this user, the review process is shown in an active state in the Tasklist panel under Activities. For reviewers, the activity is now closed because their contribution tasks have been completed.

A review process could be configured to accept the first reviewer in a role group (of say, Engineers) that completes the feedback task, rather than requiring all users in that role to complete their task before the process moves to the summarize/close stage.

Selecting the Summarize review task in the Tasklist panel will move the review flow to its final stage, as presented in the Summarize review form dialog.

The notable inclusions in this form are:

  • Information provided by reviewers
    • Comment – a list of the comments provided by reviewers at the completion of their review Tasks.
    • Vote – the review conclusion rating selected by each reviewer.
    • Review attachments – any related files added to the Task by reviewers.
  • Summary
    • Summary note – concluding notes that are added by the review process assessor (the submitter/initiator in this case) that will be recorded when the review is closed.

Clicking the dialog's button will close off the active Design Review process. Note that with the more advanced Design Review processes that are available, further steps such as specifying a completed/rejected conclusion or instigating a design Rework task are included in the assessment stage.

To examine the completed Design Review, refresh the Activities entries in the Tasklist panel ( ), check the Show Closed option in the menu and select the closed task from the list. The following dialog includes a summary of the review information (under the Data tab) and the process flow diagram (Diagram tab) with the progress state highlighted – which is Completed, as you would expect.

Custom Review Processes

Design Review processes, as ultimately presented to a user in Altium Designer, are developed and edited in the connected Workspace by a designated Administrator. The versatility of the flow step elements and UI Forms that combine to form a Design Review process workflow allow reviews to be created that satisfy a wide range of specific needs.

Some of the further options that can be applied to the steps and forms are:

  • assigning any step in the flow to a specific user or role, other than those designated as reviewers or an assessor.
  • denying a user or role access to a specific workflow step (an Exception) so it will be bypassed in the flow, for them.
  • forcing a form field entry to be compulsory before the form dialog can be submitted.
  • adding intervening workflow steps that impose further tasks and user forms.
  • the forming of a workflow decision loop where only a specific action will close that loop.
  • exposing or hiding particular data or event/error messages in a workflow step UI form.
  • using the Workspace's Web Viewer feature to allow design document inspection and comment for reviewers that do not have direct access to the design source documents.
Note that a Workspace Administrator is able to initiate processes, terminate active processes and view both active and closed user Tasks.

As previously outlined, any number of review processes can be created and made available to Altium Designer, and these can be developed for review levels ranging from informal feedback input from peers to company ratified formal review processes that feed into other company systems (such as PLM).

► For detailed information on creating custom processes, see Defining a Process Workflow (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace).

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