I just learned about the Joel Test. I have been computer programmer for 22 years, but somehow I never heard about it before. I consider my best job so far to be this small investment managing company with 30 employees and only three people in the IT department.
I am no longer with them, but I had being working there for five years – my longest streak with any given company. To my surprise they scored extremely poor on the Joel Test. The only two questions I would answer “yes” are #4: Do you have a bug database? And #9: Do you use the best tools money can buy? Everything else is either “sometimes” or straight “no”.
Here is what I liked about the company however:
Good pay. They bragged about it to my face, and I bragged about it to their face, so it was almost like a family environment.
I always knew the big picture. When writing code to solve a particular problem there were no ambiguity about the business nature of that problem. Even though we did not always had written specifications we could ask business users a question anytime, often yelling it across the floor. I could even talk to executives any time I felt like doing it: no appointment necessary.
Immediate feedback. Once we implement a solution and make business users happy they immediately let us know that, we (programmers) become heroes of the moment.
No red tape. I could always buy any tools I deemed necessary, and design solutions the way my professional judgment dictates.
Flexibility. If I had mid-day dental appointment that is near my house rather than near the office, I would send email to the company: "FYI: I work from home today". As long as one of three IT guys was on the floor (to help traders in case their monitors go dark) they did not care where two others were.
So the question thus becomes: How valuable is the Joel Test? Why bother with it?