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Online diagnostics & assessment tools: waste of time?

Sometimes I get the feeling that online diagnostic & assessment tools of any kind are about as intuitive and insightful as one of those fairground, “place your finger on the pad to get your ‘sexy’ rating,” machines. I mention this only because I have been signed up for my local council’s resident awareness scheme, which sees me fill out a 25-question survey twice a year to rate my opinions on graffiti and crime.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

Sometimes I get the feeling that online diagnostic & assessment tools of any kind are about as intuitive and insightful as one of those fairground, “place your finger on the pad to get your ‘sexy’ rating,” machines. I mention this only because I have been signed up for my local council’s resident awareness scheme, which sees me fill out a 25-question survey twice a year to rate my opinions on graffiti and crime.

Do they really ‘steer’ the management of my local Surrey council based upon people’s randomly clicked answers to poorly composed questions with impersonal answer options in the style of a) a lot b) somewhat c) often d) rarely e) never etc..? I hope they don’t take our answers as gospel.

Actually, the other reason for mentioning this is that I blogged last month on opinions that still circulate over the use of Agile computing. Mainly put about by those that consult, sell or generally hang off the coat tails of some vendor who specialises in Agile, the door for debate is still open for some – although I fear some of you are becoming weary of this interminable deliberation?

Tie the above points together and guess what you get? Bingo! Online diagnostics and analysis tools for first stage assessment to examine the potential for a project’s move to Agile adoption. You couldn’t write this stuff could you?

But who would sell such a thing? A “global leader” in Agile ALM tools and training would of course. But mercifully ThoughtWorks Studios does in fact make its web-based 20-question diagnostic free for us to try.

Covering both management and engineering practices, this “customized” report (surely its only as customised as the customer makes it) with high-level (really?) analysis that highlights potential areas for improvement is available here should you so wish to indulge.

The quiz (sorry – the online in depth high-level diagnostic tool) is described by its originators as a, “10-minute investment well worth the time.” Saracasm aside, ThoughtWorks does say that it has based its questions on 16-years of hands on practical experience.

The Agile Assessment covers: requirements analysis, business responsiveness, collaboration and communication, project management and governance – and also engineering practices such as build management, configuration management and testing.

It’s extremely easy to be critical of something like this. For my part, if I had had to sell it to customers or the press – I would have taken a more human approach. OK yes, it’s a drop in ocean perhaps. It’s only a 10-minute online tool.

But if you had high-blood pressure or needed to fix your bath plumbing where is the first place you would look? It would have to be Yellow Pages, Thompson Local directories, under the bed, the Encyclopedia Britannica or Google? My money is on the web. It’s a first step, but more crucially I feel, it’s a first natural step – and that is how they should have positioned it.

Right – must fill in online council survey now and give my opinions on new wheelie bin collection systems.

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