Development of a user-centred IT strategy: a case study
Abstract. This case study documents a twelve month programme of work commissioned by a major British telecommunications and broadcasting company. The brief was to develop a corporate strategy for the effective exploitation of Information Technology (IT) which took due account of human and organizational requirements of IT. The paper explains how human factors principles were applied within this organizational context to develop a user-centred IT strategy. The approach involved the application of a simultaneous 'top down' and 'bottom up' approach. The 'top down' analyses established the corporate goals of the company to be supported by IT. The 'bottom up' data collection process revealed the realities and limitations of IT use in the company. The gap between the desired future requirements of IT in the company and the present experience of IT 'on the ground' was thus made explicit and clear. Specifying the required infrastructure, the policies, procedures, processes and mechanisms necessary to close this gap provided the agenda for the IT strategy development process. It was considered crucial that the eventual strategy should be 'owned' by key stakeholders (i.e. influential IT providers and senior managers of user departments) as well as by end-users. Involvement of end-users was promoted by assigning to them the task of collecting interview data on user experience of IT in the company. This user experience data informed (as one of several inputs) the deliberations of the key stakeholders given the task of agreeing the key components of a corporate IT strategy. In a workshop setting, the stakeholders discussed and eventually agreed a draft strategy document to recommend to the Board of Directors who had commissioned the exercise. In due course the IT strategy document was accepted by the Board and implementation set in motion. The IT strategy development process described in this paper indicates that the systematic application of HF principles to corporate strategy formulation can be viable and effective. However it is evident that such an exercise can only succeed where there is whole-hearted commitment to a user-centred process by key individuals in an organization.