How to assess the quality of the development team in 3 minutes?

You may have heard about Joel Spolsky’s “12 Steps for Better Software” (Spolsky, 2005, pp. 29-42). Joel Spolsky is a programmer, writer and author of the extremely popular programming blog Joel on Software.

Spolsky developed a test evaluating the quality of the development team. As the author himself says, the test is “very imperfect”, but its biggest advantage is that it takes less than three minutes, and in saved time, according to Spolsky, you can safely finish the medical school.

The Joel Test consists of 12 questions that need to be answered “yes” or “no”. For each positive answer, the team receives 1 point.

How, according to Spolsky, interpret the test results? If the team of developers received 12 points, it means that it creates a wonderful, disciplined team that can create good software. 11 points is a result to be accepted, and 10 points and fewer points to a serious problem. Joel Spolsky claims that, unfortunately, most companies that produce software achieve the score of 2-3 points, which indicates the need for changes in management. On the other hand, companies achieving the greatest successes on the market, such as Microsoft, care about maintaining a 12-point score.

The questions in this test seem very general and generic, but thanks to this they allow for a deeper penetration into the applied procedures, tools and methods of work of a given team.

In our SolveQ team, the test provokes stormy discussions. And what do you think about the validity and effectiveness of The Joel Test?

Joel's test
How to assess the quality of the development team in 3 minutes?

The Joel Test

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Can you make a build in one step?
  3. Do you make daily builds?
  4. Do you have a bug database?
  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  7. Do you have a spec?
  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  10. Do you have testers?
  11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

Did you do the test? Share your results and comments.

Spolsky J, IT project management, Gliwice 2005.

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