Centrala studiestödsnämnden (CSN) is the national authority that handle the Swedish financial aid for students; i.e. loan and grant for studies as well as recruitment grant; a grant you may receive if you meet certain criteria. With offices in 12 cities in Sweden, CSN employs more than 1000 employees of whom 350 are situated in Sundsvall (a mid-size city in Sweden) at headquarters. Daily work at CSN is computer intensive, and the civil servants spend almost all day in front of computers. Computer support that is used in the authority is developed in-house, and a majority of these IT projects start because of changing legislations. Consequently, time is a major factor controlling most IT development since the deadline of a new legislation is fixed. IT projects have participants from different parts of the organization, as in a matrix organization, where each department has their role and responsibility. Officially, all projects are run according to methods provided by the business development department, and the IT architecture department. These include methods for acquisition, project management and systems development. In short, these methods provide a common framework, with descriptions of milestones, decision points as well as templates and role descriptions.
In 2003 we launched a large 3-year action research project (called AVI) at CSN with the purpose of increasing awareness and knowledge about usability and a healthy computerized work environment. The aim is to develop usability work practices based on our previous theoretical and empirical work. The project consists of several sub-projects and during these years we have worked with acticitets such as:
- Developing a specific measure of usability - a usability index - to assess quality in use
- To develop a vision of future computerized work
- Focus is on increasing competence among all parties involved in developing computerized work through seminars, coaching and project cooperation
The Swedish Migration Board is the central government authority for aliens´ affairs. This means that they are responsible for:
- permits for people visiting and settling in Sweden,
- the asylum process, from application to a residence permit or to a voluntary return home,
- citizenship affairs,
- helping out with repatriation,
- international work in the EU, UNHCR and other collaborative bodies,
- ensuring that all the relevant public authorities work together satisfactorily.
An important part of the work at the Migration Board concerns handling of all the different cases, investigations etc which are required for the board´s decisions and actions. Almost 100 % of this work is already today computer supported. For providing good service to the clients, high quality in the work and a good work environment for the personnel, is important that the computer support systems are efficient and usable.
Today we see some usability problems in the existing computer systems. Some of the systems are also old and must be replaced. At the same time the Migration Board must modernize its work processes and work organisation.
I our project together with the Migration Board we are aiming at:
- Perform a series of "future workshops" in order to formulate goals and requirements for future work organisation, work processes and work environment.
- As a result from the "future workshops", specify goals and requirements for work processes, work organisation and work environment in terms of a list of important aspects and a set of scenarios.
- Based on the results above, specify requirements for future efficient and usable IT-support systems.
- Specify and implement competencies and models for user centred development processes in the organisation as a whole.
- Test and evaluate the above in connection with a pilot project, related to citizenship cases.
The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) is an authority with extensive service and business operations. SMHI offers comprehensive competence within the areas of meteorology, hydrology and oceanography.
What is it like working at SMHI in the future? More specifically, how is the work supported by computer systems? To picture this future, almost as an ideal working environment, we use a technique called visions seminars. The resulting image is part of the answer to these questions, envisioning the goal but also the way to proceed. One important aspect is that this vision may be shared and communicated.
Our method is based on User Centered Systems Development and our department´s previous research experience on Participatory Design. The design effort takes place in the form of open seminars, where experienced participants describe and analyze today´s situation, identify needs for change and describe their vision of the desired future work place. The main topic is related to the development of IT support.