The first and most important question is:

Who is going to take what actions based on the results of this assessment?

If you can answer that, you have established the purpose of the assessment.

Most assessments fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Understand different people's opinions, for example a customer satisfaction survey.
  • Discover what you have, for example to create an inventory of servers.
  • Categorise things, for example to decide which projects should be cancelled and which should be retained.
  • Examine a thing or things in detail to gain recommendations, for example to understand what additional security measures should be applied within an organisation.
  • Judge someone's knowledge, for example as an online exam.
  • Provide general advice on a situation, for example helping people understand how to improve their website. This is often used as a pre-sales tool, and includes capture of the personal details.
  • Formally certify that something conforms to a standard.
  • Capture information that is required for other initiatives, for example understanding which IT systems could be moved to a new data centre.
  • Provide statistics required for management purposes, such as demographic information.
  • Periodically monitor a situation to identify where action is required, for example a maintenance checklist for rented properties.

Document what the assessment will deliver and how these outputs will be used. Review and agree this with all the stakeholders.

Although understanding how the results of the assessment will be used is important, the process of assessment can also deliver value. An assessment which ostensibly is about project prioritisation will force the organisation to define and understand what projects it is running. Being involved in an assessment can make employees feel more involved in the decision-making process. Often the process of assessment delivers as much value as the final results.