As of this week, I’m working on an application communities of practice Portal Project for an entertainment company in Burbank CA. The goal of the project is to provide a single location for application documentation and related information. The documentation is to be used by staff for application support and revision management and for the business units interested in the support aspect of their application.
 
What’s interesting is the sheer size of their application portfolio for managing parks, offices and other key systems. These applications are grouped into four tiers (1 through 4) whereby the first tier are mission critical and require the most attention thought to tier four which isn’t as critical to business operations.
 
Aside from the obvious reasons for documenting applications and revisions, audit requirements are dictating that the bank comply with their documentation. Other benefits to the organization are:
  • Application focused repository
  • Satisfy audit requirements
  • Application centric documents as opposed to project
  • Improve time to market
  • Simplify orientations and knowledge ramp up
  • Debug problems
  • Find SME to help solve problem
  • Create an environment that allows staff to obtain critical application documentation.
  • Reduce reliance on file on desk, people, time to market – application design, interfaces etc.
To design a solution for my client, I utilized my portfolio of best practices and experience. The methodology utilized for developing a design is based on Experience Design and User Adoption best practices which involves conducting a series of meetings, workshops for testing ideas and concepts and providing sufficient background for design related decision support. Specifically, I met with a variety of personnel from a business units involved with application management and support to better understand their perspective of the application documentation and desired outcome for the design.
 
The specific topic areas I focused on during the various planning and data collection includes:
  • Understanding expected strategy and its resulting benefits
  • Tailoring data collection tasks to facilitate the benefits of the strategy
  • Designing the solution based on the requirements stated in the scope of work
  • Understanding what is required to maintain the documentation so that it is trusted
During the design exercises, I utilized the following design principles to guide the design activities and facilitate informed decisions:
  • Focus on where you want to be – future tense.
  • How do people work together? How do we facilitate team work to create Process efficiencies?
  • What information do you require to achieve your job goals?
  • What objectives and tasks do they have? How does the Information support this?
  • How do we organize information to support ease of classification and retrieval?
  • What information is required for Tier 1 applications? What’s required for Tier 4?
  • How do we label information so that users can identify it?
  • How do we avoid information overload?
Core to my approach is User Adoption which focuses on designing, building, integrating and the on going improvement of the solution So that companies have the opportunity to realize a return on investment. Specifically, user adoption focuses on a variety of subject areas design to improve user ongoing experience which are as follows:
  • Clearly defined business objectives
  • A design that represents the users requirements for meeting the business objectives
  • User and Management Representation
  • Metrics and reviews that support the required change
  • Training to quick start staff
  • Tools that enable staff to perform
  • Reporting and monitoring systems that substantiate usage
  • Retirement/consolidation of legacy systems
  • Ongoing improvement and feedback
The Portal provides a tiered view of application data so that the users of the sites can obtain the summary and drill down information – which ever best suites their current task at hand. The purpose of this design is to simplify access to application data and facilitate speed in finding the data staff requires to facilitate their job function. Other benefits of this design are that staff will experience a degree of confidence that the site helps them and process efficiencies will be realized since users will find information faster thus result in less wait time and reduced road blocks getting tasks completed.

The Portal design contains the following views:

  • Management community whose purpose is to provide a summary view of the application portfolio.  The secondary benefit of this view is for new staff that is learning the ropes and requires gradual exposure to the applications so they are not overwhelmed by information.
  • Application community whose purpose is to provide staff with a trusted source for application data. The information here is critical to supporting the application, planning and design changes and updates and staff orientations.
  • Project Team community is the project/revision/build teams view of the application. They are focused on the revision/change at hand and thus create documents specific to the revision/change. They too use the application community site and management community site to understand impacts to coupled applications and parallel/dependency releases.
The information is “bubbled up” starting with the project team community completing their goals and seeding the application community site with associated documents and/or knowledge. Information from the application community is used to seed the management community site with summary data.
 
The Management Community Site contained the following information:
  • Service levels – Document library
  • Guides – Document library
  • Checklists – Document library
  • Best practices – Document library
  • Roles and responsibilities – Custom List
  • Disaster recovery planning – Document library
  • Application Contacts – Contacts List
The Application Site contained the following information:
  • Business Requirements – Document library
  • System Design – Document library
  • Validation and Testing – Document library
  • Support – Document library
  • Release Management – Document library
  • FAQ – Custom List
  • Known Problems – Custom List
  • New Feature List – Custom List

The the base design deployed the client now has much work to do in the areas of content and user adoption…perhaps the subject of a future blog.

 
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