What is assessment? I define it as the process of understanding a given situation to support decision making.
During software development, engineers spend as much as 50% of the overall effort on doing precisely that: they try to understand the current status of the system to know what to do next. In other words, assessing the current system accounts for half of the development budget. These are just the direct costs. The indirect costs can be seen in the quality of the decisions made as a result.
One might think that an activity that has such a large economical impact would be a topic of high debate and improvement. Instead, it is typically treated like the proverbial elephant in the room.
What can you do about it?
All in all, assessment is a discipline. More information about my view on assessment can be found on the official site of the humane assessment method — a method that offers a practical approach to software assessment.
The presentation comes with plenty of examples and it is dedicated to both managers and engineers. Why both? Because the problem is both economical and technical. Managers have to understand the technical challenges that consume the budget silently. And engineers have to understand the economics involved in assessment.