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An international peer-reviewed journal

User-Centered Design in Procured Software Implementations

Jen Hocko

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 6, Issue 2, February 2011, pp. 60 - 74

Article Contents


The Future of Usability in COTS Implementation Projects

Even without the multitude of roles embedded in the idea of a SharePoint Liaison (see the  Setting the Stage for Usability Involvement section), it is clear that usability specialists, information designers, information architects, and UI designers can all find a place helping internal staff build effective SharePoint sites for use within and outside an organization. In fact, a SharePoint implementation is a lot like a large web development effort—it simply has some unfamiliar technical limitations.

SharePoint is not the only COTS product currently being implemented in the author’s organization. So what value can usability specialists add to implementations with fewer similarities to web design and development, such as Patent Tracking Systems, Help Systems, Learning Management Systems, or an ERP like Oracle’s e-Business Suite? Table 3 describes a few of the ways our usability specialists have had an impact on these implementation projects.

Table 3. Usability Involvement in Other COTS Implementation Projects

Table 3

* If additional ERP System modules are purchased in the future, it is also possible that usability specialists will be involved in deciding whether the COTS product’s out-of-the-box user interface is “good enough” for use by the intended user base. Although the criteria for this assessment are not yet clear, a “no” answer could mean that usability specialists re-design specific custom applications (which would leverage the ERP system’s back-end business logic and therefore be more flexible).

For vendors who do not have usability practitioners on their product development teams, it has been interesting for our in-house usability specialists to partner with them (and the consultants who work with their products) to apply UCD methods during the COTS implementation process (Vilpola, 2008). We have found that many are not aware of usability or user-centered design principles, and are happy to have feedback that they can either incorporate immediately or in future versions of their products.

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