Category Archives: software engineering

Visit at the University of Pretoria – Now My Research Batteries are Fully Charged Again with Inspiration:-)

My visit to the University of Pretoria was really great.

I am so happy I took the time to do this despite a full calendar!

I met Helene Gelderblom and her research group “UX in South Africa”.  They do research related to establishment of UX in organizations. This is indeed very related to the large majority of my research projects. See for example the blog posts on the SISU project and the blog post describing my PhD.

The whole visit was very well organized, and I had meetings with very many interesting people about their research in my areas such as research on eHealh, professional competencies, management and IT and why UX is not included in software development.

During the week, I did a seminar in one of their courses, see previous blog post. I also did an open seminar for the whole department, and participated in a workshop where we discussed their research studies. There were indeed many extremely relevant and interesting studies presented. I was impressed with the depth and quality of their work! This gave me inspiration, and also motivating to continue doing research in this area!! My research batteries are now fully charged again!

I also helped some with reviewing an application for funding. If funded the project would create a platform for their UX in South Africa work, including funding for traveling etc. I really hope that they are funded! They are so worth it given their ambitions and the quality of their work!

The visit resulted in a plan for a journal publication and trying to edit a special issue on our topic.

This weekend we also went on a safari together. The elephant experience was really something special. We go to see wild elephants just two meters away. Such an amazing experience!

UCD Blog 1: IT Projects are Seldom Successful, and IT for Work is Problematic 

The last few weeks I have done lectures related to IT and UCD in different organisations.  I will do a blog series about these lectures, and I will also write some words about the different aspects that have been discussed in these seminars. I start out by saying a few words abou the situation with IT projects and the quality of IT systems.

Many investigations conclude that a majority of IT projects fail and do not deliver on time, on budget and with a satisfactory result. According to the Standish group’s definition of success only around 30 % of all IT projects are successful. This means that around 70% of all IT projects deliver too late, with low quality or with unsatisfactory results. These numbers are really horrible!

If one look at the computer systems for work, the problems are obvious and enormous. This is for example reflected in the organisation Unionen’s reports on digital work environment for white collar workers in Sweden.  These reports are based on surveys to employees that are members of the union named Unionen. They are named in the following way (translated from Swedish), and I let the titles speak for themselves:

2008: Why does not it get any better ?
2010: A system error ?
2011: Always Connected – Never Relaxed.
2012: One step ahead and two steps back.
2014:- No Lighting in sight.

The IT systems in health care do not work any better, as can be discvovered when reading any newspaper. The headlines in the photo to this blog post show some of the recent ones that I could find, and here you see some of the problems in the headlines:

X-ray Care has Large Problems Due to New IT system

Mapping shows: Non-stable IT support in ambulance care

Windows update reason for enormous breakdown at the hospitals in Uppsala

Stockholm cleans up among health care systems – investing 200 millions

Collaborative Project with the Department of Finances

My research group, the  HTO group have just worked out a contract for a participatory research project with the finance department at Uppsala University.

In this project we will collaborate with the department of finances and do action reserach related to the following areas:

  • Usability mentoring about working in different roles with the aspect of digital work environments in mind.
  • Vision seminars about the future work with economy with a special focus on communication, development of competencies and deploymen of IT.
  • Education and the introduction of new IT systems.

We will be recruiting people to this project – so look out for the ad.We are looking for reserachers who have a PhD in areas related to digital work environments, and who are looking for a post doc position in a dynamic and growing reserach group.

🙂

Uppsala University Psychosocial Care Programme: U-CARE

Since not so long I am connected to “the Uppsala University Psychosocial Care Programme: U-CARE” as a member of an advisory group for the programme (programberedning). 

U-CARE is one of the Swedish government’s strategic research programmes and started in 2010. U-CARE studies how people with physical illnesses and their families are affected psychosocially, and what help they need to deal with various psychological problems. U-care are developing self-help programs for these disorders. They are also working to develop and continuously improve an Internet platform (U-CARE portal) through which it is possible to offer and study the effect of psychosocial support and psychological treatment.

You can find a very informing YouTube film about U-care here: https://media.medfarm.uu.se/play/video/embed/4392

A few weeks ago Helena Grönqvist visited our department to present their work with U-care and the how the programme has developed. You can find the seminar at the seminar series on “Current Challenges in Biomed-IT”

 

 

In this seminar Helena Grönqvist talks about that they forgot to include the users in a structured way when developing the U-care platform and that they ran into problems due to this mistake. She also talked of the problems they encountered using Scrum and Agile.

(Not including the users is really a very common mistake, and I have written a few papers on user are included in Scrum projects (You find some of them here at Reserach Gate). Such a common mistake!)

They have now changed their way of developing the U-care portal so they now have a cyclical process where the users are included and a part of the development.

Some of the challenges that U-care face in the future, according to Helena Grönqvist, are:

  • New technology changes what users want. Do they need to have the portal avaliable on different platforms?
  • Legislation and for example the professors’ privelege is a problem since they want U-care knowledge to be open access.
  • Implementation problems: It takes 17 years until their innovation is implemented in health care. How can we make things move faster?

I am really looking forward to continuing this work and I will keep you updated on the work. 🙂

My PhD thesis: Usability – Who Cares?

It’s been almost seven years ago that i defended my PhD that is a collection of eight papers related to the establishment of User Centred Design (UCD) in organisations when developing IT for work. You find the thesis in the university system Diva.

The fundamental idea on which the thesis work is is based is that future work situations, usability of systems, and users’ needs, must be considered when developing computer systems for work, in a manner which involves the entire organisation. Usability needs to be a part of, for example, the organisational culture, strategy documents, budgets, and methods for procurement. During my PhD work I participated in large action research (see blog posts about this) projects in eight different organisations.

It took me eight calendar years to finish my PhD education (!), but four years of full-time work since I got three of my children during this period. We have paid parental leave in Sweden, and I was off for a bit more than a year for each kid.  My supervisor Jan Gulliksen was very engaged, and the best supervisor I could get. Towards the end of the process I was a single mother of three boys, and with the support of my parents and collegues I managed to wrap things up.  This was not easy, as you can imagine. But somehow this very stressful life situation made the thesis writing the fun part of life! I honesly also think that the text became better since I just wrote down things I have learned without any aim of it being perfect or complete.

The thesis has three research questions:

  1. What happens when UCSD is introduced in a public authority?

I was also interested in the values and perspectives of people involved in the organisation as well as how UCSD can be introduced through new methods that affect the values and perspectives of the stakeholders including the system developers in the organisation. Therefore, this thesis also aims at understanding the following questions:

  1. How do perspectives of stakeholders in systems development projects affect the work with UCSD, usability and users’ health in the organisations studied?

The final question addresses the issues of how we can address the introduction of UCSD and change perspectives:

  1. What new methods can be used to introduce UCSD and to influence perspectives?

 

Many answers to the questions in the thesis are still valid today, and it is indeed very difficult to establish a human centred perspective and UCD in organisations. One can wonder why this is the case? Some of my findings presented in the thesis are presented as the problems with establishing UCD when developing computer systems for work:

Some organisational problems found in the study presented in papers Sandblad et al (2003) and Cajander (2007).

Organisational problem Description of problem
Focus on surveillance and control ·    Detailed supervision of work and work performance through computer system.

·    Some saw surveillance as contributing to productivity

·    Some expressed that surveillance implied mistrust from management level

Administrative work was regarded as trivial ·    It-professionals claim that they have a good picture of case handling and core business.

·    Administrative staff believe that their work is much more complex than is generally understood

 

Development of IT systems based on technology and process descriptions ·    Abstract models of work as flow diagrams guide the development of new computer systems.

·    This has lead to some inflexible computer systems that shape work

·    Situated nature of work (Suchman, 1987) not taken into account

IT-department and users – two separate worlds ·    Alienation between groups and little understanding of the needs of the other group
Usability in systems development ·    Little or no usability activities in system development.

·    Few usability goals in the requirements specification

·    Usability activities often limited to test

·    Usability perceived as a vague and unclear concept

I also explore some (at the time of the thesis) new methods to work with the establishment of UCD:

  • System developers doing field studies to see the context in which the computer systems they build is used.
  • Usability coaching
  • Usability Index
  • Management’s perspectives on usability
  • Collaborative policy writing

I hope that some of you who work with usability take the time to skim parts of the thesis!

 

 

 

Seminar on Digital Work Environment with Examples from Health Care and DOME

Last week Gerolf Nauwerck and I did a presentation about Digital Work Environment at the Swedish Ergonomic Society’s yearly meeting. This blog post will shortly describe this presentation. It was the first time that Gerolf and I presented together, but despite limited time for preparing it went really well much thanks to Gerolf and an enthusiastic audience.

Gerolf started off the presentation by discussing the term Digital Work Environment that is used by for example Digitaliseringskommissionen, Prevent and Vision. For example Digitaliseringskommisionen defines it as:

 “The work environment in the digital economy”.

There is no scientific definition of the word, and in research other terms are used such as work engagement and healthy work.

Twenty years ago there were numerous different professions that worked with different tools, but working life has changed and today most work is done using a computer or an iPad, or other ICT technology, see image below:

arbete-fo%cc%88ra%cc%88ndring

When looking at the digital work environment there are numerous alarm reports from health care such as Isabella Scandurras “Disturbing or Facilitating“. Most health care professionals use around 25 different computer systems in their work, and these are often not connected or made to work well together even though they spend much of their time working through these systems. Physicians spend around 50% of their time working with the computer, and around 50% doing other things such as meeting patients. There are numerous media articles about the problems with ICT in health care, see the picture of the blog post. The problems are alarming, and health care professionals are as a consequence not always positive to changes related to IT.

One example of digitalisation in health care is medical records online for patients. Most physicians and nurses are very worried of the effects of this system. Mostly they are worried about the effects on the patient, but they are also worried about the effects on their work environment through the following changes:

  • Changes in well established work routines
  • Time pressure
  • Less time for preparation
  • Increased risk of misjudgements

Health care is not the only area where the digital work environment is problematic. Unionen (one of the largest Swedish unions) distribute a yearly or biannual survey to their members to investigate the digital work environment. The sub-titles of their reports called “The digital work environment of white-collar workers” tell us about the results from the survey:

2008: Why doesn’t it get better?

2010: A system error?

2011: Always online – never relaxed

2012: One step forward and two steps back

2014: No lightning ahead

In the seminar we continued with discussing what is known about software development and success factors, and we presented the results from the CHAOS report and research reports that show that one of the most important things when developing good IT for work is user involvement. But I guess that you already knew that 🙂

 

Working with Usability in Scrum Projects – what Usability Activities are Used in Practice?

A few years ago Yuan Jia worked with Marta Larusdottir and me as a master student doing her master thesis study in our research project on Agile development and UCD.

There was lack of studies describing to what extent different user centred methods were used in Scrum projects, so this became the topic of Yuan Jia’s master thesis, and which resulted in a conference paper. I remember that we had a very good collaboration with Yuan Jia, who now is a PhD student in the US.

When designing the study we quickly ran into problems with the number of respondents to our web based questionnaire. We did not have the mail contact information to people in organisation working with Scrum and user centred design. First we distributed the survey through the Uppsala Tax Office and LokaIdelen which is a website offering information to companies in Sweden. I also remember Yuan Jia’s long lists of company names and phone numbers as she systematically contacted company after company. Tedious work, but to be honest research work can be very much administration from time to time. In the end we had around 50 people who answered the survey 🙂

The survey has some interesting results, se Figure below. The most commonly used usability technique in Scrum projects is workshops, followed by lo-fi prototyping, interviews and meetings with users, all used by more than half of the participants.

One can note that all these usability techniques are informal, meaning that these techniques can be used quickly without much preparation. Formal usability evaluation with users is a highly ranked technique by the participants but not commonly used by them.

 

the-usage-of-usability-techniques

 

We presented the paper at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference (HCSE) in 2012.

You find the paper here.

 

The Future of Health Care: Student eHealth Project Kick off with the County Council in Uppsala

Now we have had a kick off day for this year’s project course in the IT in Society Class at Uppsala University. This is a collaborative class with students from thee different universities: Uppsala University, Gannon University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  Their project course is based on a student-centric learning philosophy, and open ended group work. Previous years the students have worked on various topics that are related to eHealth systems. 

We are constantly working on improving the course and the learning experience, and we have published some papers on the collaboration in the area of Computer Science Education.
This year 20 Uppsala University students will collaborate with 12 Americans on the topic:

Health systems in the future and possibilities with digitalization- Integrating systems

During the kick off day, there were a large number of people presenting their perspective of this years’ project. Annemieke Åhlenius who is the head of IT at the hospital was first and presented the Uppsala County Council’s . Some of the challenges that Annemieke and the county council face are in relation to:

  • co-ordination and interoperability
  • usable to whom?
  • integrity
  • prioritisation

This was an interesting presentation with some of the ideas similar as in this YouTube film, ending with “We need your help!” and some topics that the County Council would like the students to work on are:

  • Best in breed or best in sweet? (Standard systems or uniquely designed software)
  • For whom are we documenting in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?
  • How to archive one EMR instead of several professional-based ERM:s in one system?

Åke Nilsson who is a senior advisor at the County Council, was the second presenter, and he presented the national services that we have in Sweden. The most striking part of his presentation was the dependency map that he showed that clearly illustrated the complexities of eHealth. He also mentioned “the double work” that is a result of all these dependencies. People add the same information in many different systems.

Gustaf Hedström works with computer based decision support and Birgitta Wallgren who nowadays works with IT,  also did a very motivating presentation for the students. Gustaf presented how the work as a health care professional has changed, and the history of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Birgitta Wallgren describes that health care professionals want to work with patients, and they do not want to do the documentation. She presents the problem of documentation during surgery where one person documents what happens. Today they have many systems where they need to document, and there is very little integration between the systems.

Gustaf Hedström continued by describing the complexity of being a health care professional and being up to date, and that 1.244.252 papers were published in the Life Science area. Today it takes about 17 years for research in these papers to be implemented in the health care systems, according to Gustaf Hedström. And this is of course too long!

He also continued describing the health care system in the US, and had a fantastic quote from a physician that he had met:

There is no way I can summarize the health care system in the US, it is chaos

I am really looking forward to this years’ project, and for sure will blog about it some more.

The New Ladok System will Reshape the IT Landscape at Swedish Universities

The magazine Ergo had an article on our work with the establishment of a new study administrative system at Uppsala University. The Health Technology and Organisations research group collaborate with the university administration and we have further developed our vision seminar method in this project which has resulted in a submitted application by Thomas Lind and will soon be the core of his PhD thesis work. We have also launched a usability coaching program, since our experiences are very positive when it comes to the effects of such a program.

My research group has a long tradition of doing action research, and we collaborate closely with different organisations. Action research has one goal to improve society in one way or the other, and one goal to spread knowledge about the change. Previously we have had projects together with the county council of Uppsala and a large number of government organisations such as CSN, Skatteverket, Försäkringskassan and Migrationsverket.

The New Ladok is the ICT system which is the heart of university study administration. And replacing it is like a difficult piece of heart surgery that requires skilled professionals and careful planning. The system will be introduced at 39 universities in Sweden. At Uppsala University the system will be introduced in 2018, and it will affect about 45 000 people in the roles of course administrator, teachers, director of studies, program managers, counselors, all our students and graduate students.

During the fall we will do a study where we investigate the existing digital work environment of study administrators. The study is run by Gerolf Nauwerck, and as a part of it we will look at and compare the existing methods for organisations to incorporate work with digital work environment in their routines.

We will also do a pilot at the Department of Information Technology regarding development of processes and procedures for study administration. These will work together with the common goal which has been developed in the vision seminars. The idea is that the department of information technology’s pilot work will serve as a support for other departments in the transition to the New Ladok system.
You find the Ergo article here

On the Future of Software Engineering by Ivar Jacobson

I listened to a very interesting key note by Ivar Jacobson on the future of software engineering. Many of the things he said were spot on true, and some were a bit provocative and I disagree, but the talk was still very interesting.

Ivar Jacobson starts his key note with a historical overview of the history of software engineering, and the presentation included reflections on organisational learning and good practices. According to Jacobson there has been a few different paths in software engineering, but very little learning from past experiences. Software developers are not trained in learning from the past, and to rework and improve. They are trained in doing new things. I think he has a point here, and this is a wider phenomena than something unique for software engineering:

“Every new path starts by throwing away what you had and starting all over with new vocabulary, “new” practices, new gurus”

When talking about Agile, Ivar Jacobson claims that it is definitely a good practice. He claims that if you are a methodologist you need to be out of marketing, otherwise you are out of the game, and Agile has succeeded here. The method also needs to be accepted and appreciated by the software developers, and there is where Agile is successful. However, he also claims that many of the good practices and things we learned about software development was thrown over board when moving to agile:

“I am a firm believer in Agile, but lots were lost when we moved to Agile.”

One cornerstone of learning in an organisation, according to Jacobson, is the common ground and a common vocabulary. And we need methodologies, processes and a common vocabulary to coordinate the work with ITC in organizations. Work that includes several thousand people cannot be only creative design.

We also need to know more about how software developers learn, and how the marketing of new methods work. I really agree with this, and studies of learning in relation to software engineering is really a part of my interest. Ivar Jacobson continues by  saing that people learn through using, and working with methods, and he is reflecting on the use of books as a source of learning:

“People buy the books, but they don’t read them. How do we know what they know?”

Finally Ivar Jacobson presents the concepts of Essence, which is built on previous methods and ideas. According to Jacobson Essence is:

Essence – a standard that defines the smallest set of concepts that are common to all software projects – helps embed agile professional practices and governance across an organization for sustainable, scalable and responsive solution delivery.

The future of software engineering is human centred, of course, but there is still some way to go before we are there . According to Ivar Jacobson the way forward is to create a learning organisation, that includes a kernel of common concepts and knowledge. I agree with him completely, and the problem is how to create this situation. Perhaps action research and practice oriented research is the answer to this question?