Who is doing the work, when, and where?
For this step, you need to understand who is doing the work. What is their role?
It might be easiest to start with the names of people, but you'll want to understand what their role is when they're doing the task. For example:
Any employee submitting an expense report
Report submitter's manager approving the report (the relationship to the submitter is the key)
Accounting specialist reviewing the report (membership in a specific team is the key)
CFO reviewing aggregated financials (the specific title is the key)
A single person might at times play each of these roles, but the key is to understand the role they're playing when they do the task. Understanding roles will help you design the app screens, and configure access and security. (We'll get to those in the designing phase.)
In IT terms, each person or group of people who perform the same function are referred to as a job role, and a description of their relevant characteristics is identified in a persona (which often has a name attached to it for easy reference).
After you identify the "who," consider:
What device is used? Where is the primary location of the work? Is it in the office? Client site? Factory? (We'll discuss this more in the next sections.)
What other systems are used regularly? (Knowing this will be useful in the designing phase. For example, a manager who "lives" in Microsoft Teams might want to get approval requests there versus email.)
What would this person gain by using the app or cooperating to work with this new process?
The last point is very important, because there might be objections or hesitation from the people involved in the process before or after the steps handled by your app. That could result in your app's not being used due to the lack of cooperation.
It's essential to know who will be affected by a change to a business process. Identify who will be using the app and who will be affected by this change, even if they don't use the app.
When going through this analysis for the information you might not know, the best thing to do is to talk with the person and get their perspective. You can certainly make an assumption about how they do the work, but it's amazing what you can learn in a quick conversation—not just how they do it today, but how they'd prefer to do it in the future.
How often are they doing the work?
Also write down how often the task is done. Daily, weekly, occasionally, seasonally?
An app that's used daily has different design considerations than one that's only used occasionally. (For example, the former might need to be streamlined and the latter might need to include more explanatory text.)
Where are they doing the work?
As you consider each person who contributes to solving the problem, think about how they do their work:
Is this something they do at their desk?
Are they working at a specific location in the field?
Do they move from location to location in the field?
It's good to understand how each of the users works so that the solution you create works for them.
Will this be a mobile app?
Will it be a desktop app?
Should there be both mobile and desktop versions?
As each worker performs their part of the process, can they get online?
Are they in the field where there isn't any connectivity? Can the user work with the automated solution to capture the data in real time and have the data sync up when they do establish connectivity?
What do the other participants in the process need to know (if anything) while the person performing this step is offline?
Understanding this helps determine whether you need processes that capture data locally so that the user can be "disconnected" while they do their part of the process, and then sync the results when they reconnect.
As you understand how each contributor to solving the problem works, it's also important to know what devices they're working on. If a worker is in the field and only works on their phone or a tablet, that's good to know as you get into defining how screens look and function. If all the contributors are on a desktop or laptop, you can take different design approaches. You can build desktop and mobile solutions that work together.
Example: Personas for the expense reporting process
These are the types of roles, work styles, and preferences we found when we looked into our expense reporting process.
Lee – Salesperson
Almost always on the move
Prefers to work with a tablet when meeting with customers
Doesn't always have internet connectivity, so must be able to work offline
Prefers to capture his expenses and receipts as soon as possible after they happen
Nick – Sales Manager
Almost always on the move
Needs just a touchscreen
Requires offline support for remote locations
Responsible for approving the expense reports of all his direct reports
Shawna – Customer Support
Mainly uses a desktop
Usually incurs expenses for team morale, and must identify the employees included
Rebecca – Auditor
Needs to interact with all employees in all locations
Has occasional travel expenses
Mainly uses a desktop, but prefers to use her mobile phone
Usually has access to the internet
Responsible for ensuring overall employee compliance with reporting procedures
Abhay - Accountant
Must be able to review all expense reports and receipts
Responsible for ensuring compliance for every expense report
Handles a large volume of work; needs to be able to process information quickly
Must be able to report on how expenses are balancing up to the budget
Charlotte - CFO
Must keep an eye on the overall expense budget and help section managers stay within budget
Travels to various offices, has external meetings and conferences, and must capture her own expenses
Works from the office, remotely, and from home using various devices—desktop, tablet, and her phone
Isn't always connected to the internet
When we looked specifically at step 1 in our process (actually creating the expense report), here's what we documented.
Task 1: Create an expense report
|Who does this?||All employees|
|Where does the work happen?||At the office, at client sites, or on the road|
|When does the work happen?||Ad hoc. Some employees are doing this at least weekly. Others might do it once or twice a year.|
|Online or offline?||This is currently done on paper, but the team wants to do it digitally. Data entry can be done offline when no connectivity is available. Salespeople don't want to have to be online to start recording their receipts and expenses. (For instance, they might prefer to do this on the plane ride home.)|
|Devices?||Phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop|