How the OneNote team uses OneNote for document collaboration (spec reviews)

How the OneNote team uses OneNote for document collaboration (spec reviews)

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I got this question twice today so I thought I would just blog about it and you all will read about it before everyone else : )

The question is how does the OneNote team use OneNote for collaboration and in particular spec reviews?  As a PM it is our job to come up with the feature specifications for a given feature and create a document outlining what the feature will look like, behave like, what scenarios the feature will fulfill and what goals we are going to accomplish.  To start the spec we use a template, in Office we have a standard Word template we use for all Office specs.  This template has sections pre-populated and also has custom fields which tie into SharePoint which is pretty slick.  I start by creating a new spec in SharePoint which launches Word and enter all of the metadata in Word and then I go and write my spec.

Once I have completed the spec I will save it back up to the spec library and send an email to the team saying that the spec is ready for review.  This email is a call to arms for people on the team to read the spec and give me feedback.  This is where OneNote comes into play!  We have a team shared notebook stored up on SharePoint and we have a section called "Spec Discussion" and in this section we have a page for each spec/feature we are working on.  We have organized this section by using subpages; the top-level pages are titled with the name of a PM and under that page we create a subpage for each spec/feature written by that PM.

Each page uses a template that we use for feedback, the template pretty much looks like this:

image

Then each individual will go in there and enter their comments and questions, usually we add a new table row for each comment even if it is by the same person.  I have also seen people print the spec to OneNote, write their comments with their Tablet pen and then copy the page to the shared notebook; but 90% of the time people just write their comments in this table.  This way we have a running list of what comments people have and it isn't in email or just hallway conversations.

Then as the PM it is my job to go through those comments and see what questions people have.  At this point I will typically look through the list and see if I need to update the spec and I also will reply with my own comments.  I write my comments inline and the resulting page looks like this:

image

Then I typically email the people who gave me comments and let them know that I replied, just so they can see that I listened to them and their feedback was incorporated into the spec.  Then we do the final review where the PM (and the Dev & Tester) present the spec to the managers of the team to make sure this is a good plan and get approval before coding begins.  Also during the review someone will take notes in this same spec discussion page so the notes from the meeting are recorded and stored in the same place.  It also gives the PM a good place to go when they are done with the review and they want to look through all of the feedback and update the spec for coding begins.

We have also learned to insert links to the spec discussion page to the Word doc (the spec) so you can always get the right place.  This system has worked well and allowed me to review spec offline and when I come back they all sync up, no write locks and everything is in one place and everyone on the team can see the feedback and the PM's comments back to the commenter.

That is how we use OneNote, how about you all?  Any cool ways of using OneNote or best practices for shared notebooks and good templates?  Please share!

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  • PingBack from http://msdnrss.thecoderblogs.com/2007/12/20/how-the-onenote-team-uses-onenote-for-document-collaboration-spec-reviews/

  • Really interesting post - I'm starting to think about where shared notebooks would be more appropriate for my team than SharePoint Team sites.  I'd normally think first of a document workspace for a review like the one you described, but it sounds like the offline abilities of OneNote make that a better solution for you.  What other advantages have you found?

  • Wish you all used Tablet PC's so you'd put more priority on inking. :) The fact that tables don't work with ink forces me to use the keyboard more than I'd like.

    But otherwise, still loving OneNote 2007.

  • Why do you use this approach compared to using a Wiki-based solution?  Doesn't MOSS have a Wiki component?  Is it strictly for offline access?

  • Looking to roll out onenote in a similar way, but was interested to learn how you can easily tie in custom fields in word documents to sharepoint.  Specifically, is is possible to link to the version control in sharepoint, so that the word document can show the version number maintained by sharepoint.  This will save use from having to manually update revision numbers of specifications each time they are edited and checked back in.

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