Wednesday, April 15, 2009

M364 Block 1, Unit 3, Activity 9

How user-centred was the approach taken by Tokairo? Start by listing the main stakeholders - beneficiaries, decision makers, gatekeepers and workers - and discussing their roles in the development process.

Then analyse Tokairo's approach against each of the five principles of user-centered development given on page 286 of the Set Book
The main stakeholders in the project were, at a corporate level, Excel plc as parent of Tankfreight and Shell, the project's client. Shell were responsible for allowing Tankfreight and Tokairo access to their depot. Tankfreight were probably the main beneficiary since they commissioned the project, and automating the delivery reporting process should reduce costs and increase accuracy.

The more immediate stakeholders were Tankfreight project management (Hugh Rowntree and Rachel Darley), Tankfreight's account manager for Shell, the driver foremen, trade union representative and the drivers themselves.

Hugh and Rachel were gatekeepers to the drivers and Hugh was presumably a decision maker in commissioning the project, and, together with Rachel, signing-off design options and prototypes.

Tankfreight's account manager may have been a gatekeeper for access to the Shell depot, and would have had some involvement in high-level project decisions.

The driver foremen and union representatives are not only gatekeepers to the drivers but possibly themselves users of the system, as workers, and possibly beneficiaries, either as users or because it makes the drivers happier.  

The drivers themselves are the primary users of the system, possible beneficiaries (if the forms are more accurate and they get fewer forms being returned to them) and are involved as workers.

Presumably others are also involved, either as workers or beneficiaries - those who used to enter the drivers' forms manually, those who manufacture and sell the kiosks, and those who service them.

Now let's evaluate Tokairo's approach to the five principles of user-centered development.

Users' tasks and goals are the driving force behind the development
Tokairo's initial input comes from Hugh Rowntree and Rachel Darley, who know the drivers, their tasks and their environment well, and Tokairo had already had access to the users before the project even started. They appear to have a good understanding of users' tasks and goals. But satisfying the drivers' tasks and goals is probably a necessary rather than a sufficient condition for the project's success, the final criterion presumably being that the system reduces costs and increases accuracy. 

Users' behaviour and context of use are studied and the system is designed to support them
As part of the system audit, "Treve actually went initially to the oil terminals and depots. Treve met the drivers and the driver foremen". The team appear to have a detailed understanding of what the drivers do, and of where they do it, in the cab and at depot reception, and it is clear that design decisions directly reflect these factors.

Users' characteristics are captured and designed for
Once again the team appear to have a detailed picture of their user group, of what they have in common (being literate, non-academic males, short of time, primarily interested in earning a living and going home) and where they diverge (level of interest in computers). And again, this is clearly reflected in the team's account of how they made design decisions. 

Users are consulted throughout development from earliest phases to the latest, and their input is seriously taken into account
This principle was defintely observed during the requirements phase of this project. It is clear that Tokairo would normally prefer to consult users during the design and implementation phases but felt that there were specific reasons they shouldn't do so in this case, although the form did get some early testing, which is a kind of user-consultation.

All design decision are taken within the context of the users, their work, and their environment
This principle seems to have been observed very thoroughly. In fact it seems that the team ascribe the success of the project to this factor.

Given that the project followed at least four of the five principles, and that the remaining principle was partially missed for specific reasons rather than lack of interest or lack of user focus, I would say that the approach to this project was quite highly user-centered.

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