The circle of product development in digital assessment

Eerk Hofmeester

Experts in the assessment domain speaking: Eerk Hofmeester

My name is Eerk Hofmeester, product owner at Optimum Assessment. For 8 years I have been involved in digital assessment and learning. However, I have been working on realizing customer needs for 38 years. I have held various roles over the years. Designer, functional and process architect, business analyst and now product owner. Within this last role, I translate customer requirements into innovations and improvements to our testing platform. The main goal? Delivering as much value as possible for our customers!


What has the most customer value?

Optimum Assessment wants to provide the ultimate assessment experience and thus optimally tailor its platform to the needs of all its users. However, as a developer of our own platform, we do not have infinite capacity. We cannot implement all improvements at the same time and have to make choices and prioritize. As a product owner, I help our organization set these priorities based on the highest possible value for as many of our customers as possible. How? By knowing in detail what our customers need.

Co-creation: product development for and with the customer

When I say “customer,” I always mean the end user. That is, of course, to begin with, the candidate who wants to take a test that is important to him or her in a pleasant way and without any obstacles. But think also of the item and test constructor who wants to create high-quality tests as easily as possible. Then there is the psychometrician who wants based on the data from tests taken, to raise the quality of tests and individual items to a higher level. Finally, the supervisor needs information about the orderly progress of a test or exam. The dashboard of Optimum Supervisor provides real-time information for these purposes.

Optimum Assessment’s existing knowledge and years of experience in the testing domain helps us make choices in all these scenarios. However, experience teaches us that it is only when the end user actually uses a new feature that it becomes apparent whether it is what he or she needs.

Problem description to new insight

That’s why we involve users as early as possible in the development process. Even better: before even a single line of code is written, we talk extensively with our users about a new option. Is it really necessary? How does it work in practice? Where does it actually hurt? The latter may sound strange, but I often see that it is precisely in describing the current problems that new insights arise to perhaps do things quite differently than we intended.

After the initial sketches and ideas are developed, we go back to those users. Is this what you intended? Would this work? What could be done better? Etc.

Continuous feedback

Only then do our development teams get to work building a new feature step by step. We also share the intermediate steps with our clients and can actually be used by them. At Optimum Assessment we work through an agile methodology. As a result, we get continuous feedback on whether we are on the right track and make adjustments as needed. The fact that we sometimes end up with a different result than we had thought of beforehand is a positive thing. Apparently, that result better suits what users want and delivers more value than the original plan.

Circle of product development

Naturally, the work doesn’t end there. Our assessment platform helps large groups of users create, administer, assess and improve tests. In practice, even the smallest imperfections come to light naturally. We therefore continue to listen to comments from users about things that could be even better, easier, faster or more convenient, and incorporate them in a subsequent version.

This completes the circle of product development.

Precisely in describing current problems, new insights arise to perhaps do things very differently than we intended.

Eerk Hofmeester


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