In the business world, a formative evaluation is an assessment of a product that is conducted before the process of production is complete. This allows the makers of the product to look for any flaws and decide whether the product delivers what is expected before it can no longer be altered. This differs from a summative evaluation, which is performed after the production is complete and the product is ready to be sold. In many cases, a formative evaluation is performed by the makers of the product themselves or other staff members who have intimate knowledge of the desired outcome.
Any time a company decides to create a new product, it must make sure that the product serves the purpose for which it is designed, and meets the quality control standards maintained by the company. This requires extensive testing that must be done before the product is ready for sale. Once it hits shelves of stores, there is not much that a company can do to rectify any problems. As a result, a formative evaluation is a necessary step in production to assure the highest-quality products eventually reach the hands of consumers.
When a company conducts a formative evaluation, it is doing so during the production process itself. At various stages, it should be checking to see if the product is meeting its objectives. If not, tweaking can be done to alleviate any problems. More evaluation can be done after the adjustments are made, and the process continues until the product has met all the objectives of the production team.
This process of formative evaluation is in direct contrast to summative evaluation, which is another necessary part of the production process. For the most part, summative evaluations are done after the project is completed. While alterations might not be possible at that point, lessons can still be learned from summative evaluation that will instruct the company in future production endeavors. A diligent company will perform both formative and summative evaluations.
There are many different objectives of a formative evaluation that a company should be sure to meet. Obviously, the company should be concerned with product quality and whether or not it does what is supposed to do. In addition to that, a company should be watch carefully for any unexpected problems that might not have even been considered in their original production plan. By the same token, it might find ways that the product can be improved that also weren't in the original plan. These unexpected contingencies are a huge part of the formative process.