Improving Design Reviews at Google

Ben Greenberg
International Conference on Automated Software Engineering, IEEE/ACM(2023)


Design review is an important initial phase of the software development life-cycle where stakeholders gain and discuss early insights into the design’s viability, discover potentially costly mistakes, and identify inconsistencies and inadequacies. For improved development velocity, it is important that design owners get their designs approved as quickly as possible. In this paper, we discuss how engineering design reviews are typically conducted at Google, and propose a novel, structured, automated solution to improve design review velocity. Based on data collected on 141,652 approved documents authored by 41,030 users over four years, we show that our proposed solution decreases median time-to-approval by 25%, and provides further gains when used consistently. We also provide qualitative data to demonstrate our solution’s success, discuss factors that impact design review latency, propose strategies to tackle them, and share lessons learned from the usage of our solution.