User involvement in the systems design process-a practical guide for users
Increasingly users find themselves 'involved' in IT design projects. This occurs because the organizational culture of the parent organization purports to promote participation, or because structured design methods are being used which require users to play a part. In either case users who find themselves required to participate in IT projects are frequently unclear about what this requires. In most organizations surprisingly little briefing on the users' role in design projects is provided. Users are therefore confused about their brief and concerned about their lack of expertise in computing. Although research reports on participatory design PD projects abound, little coherent guidance for the key stakeholders representing users' interests is available. The contents of this paper go some way towards filling the gap. Clear differentiation is made in the paper between the roles of the different players involved. Detailed guidance is provided for meeting the varied requirements of the different roles. For example, the roles of 'top' management and 'middle' management in supporting user involvement are explored, their special responsibilities specified and required actions listed. The need for an infrastructure to support user involvement and how to create one is discussed. Guidance is provided on, for example, the representation process and the factors to consider in selecting user representatives. The role of user representatives is particularly problematical and therefore receives particularly close attention. Finally guidance is given regarding the common pitfalls in Quality Assurance procedures and especially how to avoid the procedures becoming a meaningless 'rubber-stamping' exercise. The guidance presented is grounded in the extensive experience of the author in participative design processes in a wide variety of contexts including the footwear industry, a major UK government department and a telecommunications and broadcasting company.