RAA1: User-Centered Design in Procured Software Implementations

14 Oct

1. APA Citation:

Hocko, Jen. (2011). User-Centered Design in Procured Software Implementations. Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 6, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 60–74.

The link is

2. Purpose:

In 2008, the author was asked by IT department to evaluate the usability of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products being considered for purchase. After two years, the detailed methodology is deeply incorporated into the IT department’s official hardware/software vendor selection process, and usability is considered as a factor in the overall procurement process. Now, the author faces new challenges. How can usability specialists add value to COTS implementations? How do usability specialists keep project teams thinking about end-users when these teams are encouraged to use purchased products out-of-the-box and to configure them? Through a case study which describes the author’s involvement in a Microsoft SharePoint implementation, the author tries to explain some challenges and lessons learned. It also tries to suggest other ways that usability specialists can participate in COTS implementation.

3. Methods:

The author conducted a user case study to discover the role of usability specialists in COTS implementation team. First, the SharePoint implementation team ran a pilot rollout to get feedback on specific documented SharePoint feature. However, there was little response from the teams. After that, the author collected data by

  • administering a preliminary survey in SharePoint to get participants into the system and to learn more about their team and how they worked today,
  • observing a subset of participants while they worked through the high priority test cases (along with another usability specialist), and
  • administering a follow up survey to gauge participants’ thoughts after having tried SharePoint and to explore whether they felt it would improve how they work.

The early “seat at the table” helped System Services department migrate to SharePoint by working with them to design a new user-centered company-facing site. The project was successful. After reflection of these early experiences and lessons learned from going through the process, the SharePoint implementation team revised its process and created the final five-stage process for departments migrating to SharePoint, as is shown below.

From the detailed description of the case study as well as the challenges faced and lessons learned, the author concluded that the usability specialists are able to add value to COTS implementations.

4. Main Findings:

There are three main findings given by the article:

a)      The pilot rollout helps the SharePoint implementation team discover the benefits and limitations of the technology and decide how best to proceed with a company-wide migration.

b)      Through the process of early COTS implementation projects, there are three challenges and realizations. The first one is about documenting change management issues. Lack of any component could have negative consequences and they need to be discussed and agreed upon by the SharePoint implementation team and any department. The second one is that revamping each department’ information architecture would require a greater level of effort and guidance from usability specialists than originally expected. Finally, the author found that they should manage consistency while forgoing customizations or it may increase user confusion and frustration.

c)      Because complex software packages are difficult to customize, the author encourages usability practitioners who are initially excluded from COTS evaluation should involve themselves in these types of projects and help end-users with these packages. Although some practitioners may feel they can not add much value to, they are able to demonstrate value when working around usability issues.

5. Analysis:

This article focus on the role of usability specialists to help incorporate user-centered design practices into both COTS evaluations and implementations. Although it is not related to my research interest directly, it helps me understand user-centered design in product evaluations and implementations. I think the knowledge will benefit me in future work.

It can be informed from the article that usability issues of products on the market are significant and experts should get involved early in product evaluations. Identify and assess usability issues before the final procedure decision is made. Also, after the project is done, we should use UX methods to get the feedback from real users. Usability research is everywhere.

Moreover, I like the reflection of the first time experience and the final five-stage process they created after revising the implementation process. These helpful tips not only can apply to a COTS implementation, but are appropriate for other usability research projects. For example, have an accurate project plan before gathering user input on the existing sites, work with the project team and executive sponsor to focus and scope the project realistically and engage or delegate user research activities to department project teams.

Additionally, as the author mentioned, the SharePoint implementation has many similarities with web development effort. It is clear that usability specialists will be very helpful. What about other ERP systems with significant differences with web design such as Service Management and Operations Management? The author has briefly discussed these usability involvements and I think if we dig much more deeply, a lot of interesting things and relationships may be discovered.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 14, 2012 in Research Article Analyses



One response to “RAA1: User-Centered Design in Procured Software Implementations

  1. Mihaela

    October 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Good RAA. Your points on Bb.


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