Working on a Call-Centre System drew out all the SSADM undergraduate training (Structured Systems Analysis and Design is a Waterfall methodology developed by the United Kingdom’s Treasury) and as always, working on something you studied doesn’t always transfer to the real world when the rubber hits the road. Waterfall is a thing of the past, system design is rarely worked out like that anymore in today’s Agile world (where there are calls that Agile is dead) and the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency that developed SSADM has now morphed into something else. The brief was thin (take an enterprise, largely Command Line Interface system — those blank blue-sheen systems where you have to type the commands in from memory) filed with business logic and reproduce in an MDI (Multiple Document Interface) environment. The thin requirements being something we like to consider a mark of confidence that we would be able to complete the project successfully.
The system, that is now part of the Simplyhealth Group, had about 60 consultant-seats at any one time answering enquiries from users on medical enquiries and assessing their qualification for medical insurance policies provided largely through their employers’ corporate healthcare schemes.
The requirements author, Richard Chan, was a hero to the Remedi internal Project Management department but to us, he was the reason we were confined to a room working through the 200 Use Cases. I still remember his wry smile as he handed them over—duely printed off to reinforce how difficult the process was going to be. We worked through the substantial gathered requirements in about 30 days to provide a draft of the core UI to Middle Management stakeholders who had day-to-day supervision of the system before it was taken onto the Project Board to continue working on the transformation. Once adjustments had been made, the project then moved on to working with the development team to ensure that the suggestions were practicable—and of course—things always arise when the cookie mixture is actually in the bowl. The development team lead by Paul Shave saw and pointed out how we could make adjustments.
We initially focused on trying to map out an overview of the system (which we abandoned as the system was in place and we were not looking to make any improvements to the business logic in the background). Moreover, the system was particularly expansive, and we considered it little value to provide an overview of the system. We’ve encountered that often services can be sold into projects that are important, but that can be completed by internal staff with appropriate skills in tandem with developing the new product. In this way, resources are better spent for the client. The most challenging aspect of the project was, of course, immersing ourselves and getting quickly up to speed in the domain and absorbing a new glossary of terms, understanding the business logic behind the system, and piecing together how that would impact the new UI.
UX is never carried out in isolation from wider business aspects, especially in the corporate environment. A sizeable amount of ethnographic work had already gone in to understand the role of the system’s consultant in terms of increasing productivity and maximising consultant retention. While a number of issues were raised in terms of developing operational best practice, the Windows-based GUI interface provided was welcomed by the existing staff and reportedly resulted in an upturn in consultant engagement with the business overall. Perhaps the perception that the improved system would also make the consultant’s day job easier (which was part of the remit as well as improving the ability to generate reporting from the system) helped to make that a real possibility.
Paul Shave led the development team on the Remedi project.
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Remedi is now part of the Simplyhealth Group.