An Air Force Contracting Officer (CO) in Romania is tasked with developing business relationships and arranging contracts with local vendors throughout the country so that when the need arises to quickly build a temporary runway, such as to provide humanitarian support in the event of a natural disaster, contracts are already in place. The officer meets with vendors to determine the availability of locally sourced products and services such as concrete, catered food, porta-potties, etc., so that the Air Force can avoid flying everything in on transport aircraft. Why spend the money to fly in 4,000 tons of gravel if you can buy it from local vendors?
Though the CO is the person making contract agreements, it takes a team of planners, managers, contracting officers, and contract observers to make this work. Until recently, this contracting process, all done with spreadsheets and documents, was fraught with errors and duplication of effort.
Create Task-Specific Tools
Rather than a typical generalist tool with a single interface, AF CyberWorx developed 4 separate yet integrated tools for the different user types (planner, contracting manager, contracting officer, and observer) and their specific set of tasks (task-oriented design). Planner tasks demand a large workspace, such as a desktop with multiple screens. Contracting managers work from remote locations like hotel rooms and require laptop-sized screen designs. Contracting officers work in the field with tablets. Observers only need a smartphone app.
The result is an enterprise-oriented, integrated suite of tools that focus on specific users and tasks and eliminate unnecessary data. Not only is each tool optimized for discrete user tasks, but the system also includes algorithms to perform many calculations and actions automatically, relieving much of the user’s cognitive burden.
Reduce Cognitive Burden
This new approach is a welcome departure from traditional software designs which feature a data input paradigm. These “solutions” are simply information repositories—users perform the real work in their heads and then enter the results into a form. Form-oriented designs only address superficial aspects of a task, treating the system as a knowledge-capture tool rather than a knowledge or solution generator.
Good user research identifies the cognition occurring in the users’ heads and translates those computations into work a system needs to accomplish for users. A proven successful approach identifies best-practice knowledge or processes and builds them into the system.