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Posted by Joan Phaup
I’m intrigued by the ingenuity of Questionmark users, who bring so many different perspectives to their work with learning and assessments.
Tom Metzler, for example, an enterprise architect and senior education consultant at TIBCO Software, Inc., brings many years’ experience in software design to his current work.  He is also the knowledge assessment administrator.
He’ll be sharing his insights at the Questionmark Users Conference in New Orleans March 20 – 23, during a case study presentation called An Architect’s Approach to Questionmark Assessment Development : How to Architect, Design and Implement an Efficient Assessment-Building Process.

Tom Metzler

His aim, Tom says, is to help fellow Questionmark users apply some principles of enterprise architecture to planning and building assessments. Here’s a quick account of a conversation I had with him last week.
How are you using assessments at TIBCO?
Our knowledge assessments are designed to verify a participant’s knowledge of key concepts and capabilities covered during TIBCO courses. This is a good method for showing participants and their companies concrete evidence of learning.
Our assessments are also very popular among our own employees who take them to help maintain their skill sets in this fast-changing technical environment.
Why do you think it’s important for assessment professionals to understand something about business architecture processes?
First, many business processes within many organizations are implemented ad hoc. Over time, these systems become brittle, inefficient, lack scalability and are generally unmanageable and undocumented. Knowledge Assessment processes are not immune. In essence, the business architecture is weak. It’s a house of cards. It is crisis management …putting out fires.
Second, since I first started writing code in the early ’70’s, automating business processes has evolved from a “just write the code” mentality to a mature industry. I believe computer science has had as much to do with this evolution as did learning from our mistakes.
By applying proven techniques, methodologies, and so forth to everyday business processes, people can save themselves a lot of time, improve the quality of their work, and ensure an attractive ROI. For example, they can use the conceptual principles of service-oriented architecture. These principles translate beautifully into improving processes for creating assessments, and you don’t have to be a computer scientist to do this kind of thing.
For instance?
One thing I’ll focus on during my conference presentation is the concept of discovering and building reusable components within the Questionmark Perception repository using proven software development techniques. I’ll also address the mistakes I initially made and how to avoid them.
What would be your top three bits of advice for someone who wants to apply these ideas?
1.    Obtain executive sponsorship
2.    Follow architecture best practices
3.    Document your processes
How can your own experience help your audience?
Because we are a software company, with a proven record, we understand what good software development means. I want to share this with the audience and give it to them in a form they can understand, so that they can capitalize on what we’ve done.  We architect our product solutions so it is natural to us to also architect our everyday business processes, which is what we did for our knowledge assessment program.
Who would benefit from hearing your presentation?
I think it would be helpful to people who are just starting out, since it would help them avoid some pitfalls and get started on the right foot. And it would be of particular interest to assessment development managers, repository managers, project managers and, business analysts and project architects.
What would you like people to take away from your session?
I hope they’ll see the value of architecting their Questionmark assessment-building process and get some ideas for implementing reusable components in their own assessments — a great way to ensure ROI. I really want them to be able to capitalize on the concepts I present.
Tom is one of several case study presenters at this conference. Check out the complete line-up of case studies, best practice presentations and other sessions hereand register soon!