You can’t improve what you don’t know. That’s the key reason why an assessment should be conducted prior to any change in business process or software implementation.

An assessment will help you identify:

  • Benchmarks for current service levels
  • Who is typically involved in a business process
  • What tools are used to complete the work
  • Ideas on how to improve the work from the people who do it

There are actually three stages to an assessment, 1) Preparation, 2) Interviews and Data Gathering, and 3) Compiling the Results

1) Preparation

One of the best ways to complete an assessment is by conducting individual interviews with the people who are currently doing the work for the area under consideration.

How many people need to be involved in the assessment effort will depend on the size of the area in question, such as a small team versus a large department. So the first thing you need to do is determine the size of the assessment team and what role each person will play.

It’s also important to develop standard questions you will ask so each assessment team member places the focus on the proper areas of the business. The questions will vary depending on what area of the business is involved, but should follow these general guidelines.

  • How does the work group integrate with other teams or departments within the company?
  • How does the work group integrate with external groups or departments?
  • Is the group comprised of people who specialize in certain areas or are people cross trained to perform multiple functions?
  • What standards or policies govern the work of the group?
  • How are decisions made within the group?
  • What portion of the work (if any) is outsourced to an external company?
  • How is work distributed within the group?
  • What technology systems are used by the group to get work done?
  • Are there any other groups within the company that do similar work?
  • What are the current standards or benchmarks for completed work?
  • How do people learn to perform new jobs or tasks within the organization?
  • What change would help you do your job better?

You may want to do a pre-interview request for any documents or data that is available to save time in the interviews.

Conducting The Assessment

Depending on the culture of the organization, the people who are being interviewed for the assessment may feel threatened by the process. It’s important that you make them feel comfortable so they’ll share important information with you by offering anonymity of their responses and indicating that although you will be using their input, no single person will be identified in the results.

A good way to begin an assessment interview is to explain that you have several questions you will be asking and that you’d like the person to be as frank as possible with you. Then begin the discussion with the statement, “So tell me a bit about your job.” Beginning the interview with this icebreaker helps establish rapport with the interviewee and will help set the tone as you proceed through your prepared questions.

As you proceed through the interview, make sure you ask for any hard copies of documents as they are mentioned by the interviewee.

Close out the discussion by thanking the person for their input and advise them of any next steps that are applicable to your project.

Compiling The Results

It’s time to put it all together and determine what will be affected by your project and how it will be addressed in your project plan.

It’s a good idea to create a framework for your results compilation to help keep the information organized and your assessment team focused. If you don’t already have a framework defined, getting the assessment team together and brainstorming key areas for “chunking” the information you learned is a good way to begin.

Once you’ve decided upon the format, dig in and sort through what was discovered to compile the final assessment results.