By Barbara Weber, Professor and head of the software engineering section at DTU
In this series, last week Søren Debois (IT University in Copenhagen) wrote about the challenges of accommodating continuous legal changes in the IT systems of an organization and discussed the need for flexible IT systems. The vision of EcoKnow is to build a bridge between legislation as text and the IT systems to be implemented, by outputting regulatory requirements as “formal process models” that can be performed by computers. That way, changes in legislation directly translate to changes in IT systems. All that is required is a local law expert who can connect it to the process models.
In this week Barbara Weber, Professor and head of the software engineering section at DTU writes about the importance of user concerns.
Like a car driver using a GPS
The vision of the EcoKnow project is to link legal texts and process models raises significant challenges, since flexibility often comes at the cost of usability and understandability. The flexible solution within EcoKnow will guide the case workers in executing their work process similar as a GPS guides drivers in finding their way.
To realize the benefits of the proposed system, understandability and maintainability of the process models by local legal experts is fundamental and a precondition for a correct translation of legal texts to process models.
Like a GPS describes the roads that can be taken, the process model ensures that case workers can only follow paths that are compliant with legal requirements. This however requires that the process models constitute a correct translation of the legal requirements.
Otherwise, situations might arise where the case workers get misguided, just as a car driver using a GPS with outdated card materials might end up on a skiing slope with his / her car rather than at the rented vacation home.
Moreover, case workers executing the flexible work processes need to be able to understand the system to an extent that they can make well founded decisions. Otherwise, even if process models correctly reflect the legal requirements and ensure that process execution stays within the legal frame, suboptimal paths might be taken, potentially leading to delays and unnecessary costs.
Using the GPS metaphor this corresponds to situations where the instructions provided by the GPS are correct, but drivers still get misguided, since they do not understand the instructions correctly. Usability and understandability of the developed solution is not only critical to ensure correct process execution, but also to ensure user acceptance and reduce technostress.
About Barbara Weber
Barbara Weber is professor and head of the software engineering section at DTU. Her research interests include business process management and process modeling as well as human and cognitive aspects of information system and software engineering.
Barbaras role in the EcoKnow project is to investigate understandability and maintainability aspects of hybrid processes models combining legal text and process models. Experiments involving case workers and legal workers will be conducted, collecting data from multiple sources like eye tracking, interactions with the IT system, and think aloud. This helps to identify challenges early on and thus guides the project through its subsequent development cycles.
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