Human-centered design research in government enterprise development
The Department of Defense Repairables Enterprise Needed Modernization:
A Department of Defense client (DoD) handles thousands of parts in need of repair or replacement everyday. Some items are inexpensive, while others cost upwards of millions of dollars. No matter the value, they must all travel through the same repairable ecosystem and they must all be accurately tracked and accounted for.
No matter the value, the paperwork used to track those items travels through the same system. The accuracy of this paperwork ensures timely repairs. Timely repairs ensure military readiness, and enables accurate audits that are required by statute.
The DoD repairables system has developed organically over the years. New systems were integrated into old systems as new needs arose, and each system needed special software to talk to the older systems. Venders, (both internally and commercially) need software to plug into this labyrinth of databases and systems to accurately induct, repair, and return materials to the DoD.
Modernizing the DoD Repairables Process:
The DoD conducted deep research into the technical requirements for the modernization of the repairables system. They knew, technically, what needed to happen. However, they discovered that when implementing these technical solutions, very little changed in the efficiency and accuracy of venders and users of the repairables system. There was no significant improvement within the system.
Why?—They knew very little about how users actually used the system that was created for them. They knew very little about the successes and failures their users experienced day-in and day-out. What works well, and what does not work well—where and when. So human factor problems and pain-points were not addressed with the technical requirements alone.
Human-Centered Design Research Uncovers the Human Factors of an Enterprise System:
Our team conducted in-depth research into the users of the repairables process. Research was conducted during the Corona virus lockdown. We interviewed users and stakeholders of the repairables ecosystem. We mapped out each users’ jobs and reporting needs to the systems’ current state map.
During synthesis of our interviews we discovered common themes relating to each step in the process. Like most large organizations, people were not aware of what their collogues needed in the pipeline before them and after them. Each group suffered from visibility issues into how they fit within the ecosystem
A Common Theme of Visibility:
— Distortion: Language, “We are using different terms for the same thing”
— Opacity: Unable to see tracking of items through the process
— Double Vision: Multiple reports created independently for the same items. “People created the same reports, duplicating efforts”
— Nearsightedness: Inability to easily pull reports of others
— Blindness: Inability to clearly see vendor performance
The human-centered research team mapped each of these findings to pain-points within the repairables process to enable users and leadership to visually “see” (make visible) where human/technology factors overlapped (see figure below. Image sanitized to protect client).
We created an asynchronous workshop and invited repairables users and stakeholders to brainstorm ideas to increase greater visibility and accuracy within the repairables ecosystem.
Through a series of short exercises, participants
1) Brainstormed ideas,
2) Developed ideas into user stories,
3) Critiqued user stories, and;
4) Prioritized those stories for the development backlog.
A user-centric future-state artifact was created from the research and workshop outputs to ensure current and future development of repairables ecosystem met user needs.
(see below for sanitized version of future-state document)
1) User requirements are as important to the success of a development process as technical requirements.
2) Human-centered research practices reveal key insights for how real humans use systems.
3) The success of a project is measured by the ability of the user to achieve specific goals with the system in an efficient, effective and satisfactory manner.