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Business Process Automation and importance of Contextual Inquiry

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Rodger Hutchenson will be joining us to chat contextual inquiry.

Contextual Inquiry is a field method (done in the field, as opposed to in the lab), which has been performed by a mix of ethnography, psychology, and software development professionals. The intent is to allow designers to ground their domain knowledge in how real users accomplished the tasks that the designers' product is supposed to support.

Three main Contextual Inquiry Principles:

Context - You do your study in the context in which the work actually gets done. People often structure their environment in many ingeneous and subtle ways to help them do their tasks. If you take them out of this environment, they may forget or rationalize how they carry out their jobs. Relationship with the user - This was originally couched as partnership, but later described as apprenticeship. The key here is that the user is the expert in how the job is actually done. You have to acknowledge that expertise, draw it out, analyze it, and understand the design implications of it. Focus - Contextual techniques are not what you want to use for a fishing expedition. The idea is to get in, get what you need, and get on with the rest of the development cycle ASAP. To automate a business process you need to fully understand the current process defined by the business unit first and break it down to identify potential areas of inefficiency. Contextual Inquiry is important because it gives a designer the ability to observe and question the experts at the same time. This can identify breakdowns in the current process as well as define a more effective and efficient automated solution.