Identifying User Requirements

AIM

To determine what the project should do required finding out what users wanted.

RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS

A methodology for user needs analysis (Needs Analysis Methodology) to use for this part of the work was adopted. Over 150 interviews and other sessions and activities were carried out using this as a guideline. From this work, which continued throughout the life of the project, a great deal of information was obtained. A very brief outline of key general results is given here.

General Conclusions:

  • Users had many requirements that were not met. Often this was because certain types of application, Wikis, Blogs, Social networks etc were considered the obvious “solutions” and the actual problems in many cases were not properly considered and analysed.
  • User needs analysis has to be an interactive continuing process. Many of the real requirements of users that the project worked with actually did not emerge sometimes till a long period after the original discussions and after many iterations with different “solutions”.
  • Organisational and cultural factors were important obstacles, particularly for collaborative activities and where resources and funding were concerned.

General Requirements:

  • Ease of use and integration with existing work practices were key considerations. Recurring issues included having to re-enter identical or similar information multiple times and non user-friendly interfaces. Because of the importance of user interface considerations, a set of criteria to guide work in this area was drawn up and is shown in Principles of Usability. The project found that often usability is even more important than the underlying functionality of a system in terms of actual usage and impact.
  • A handful of applications (e.g., Microsoft Word, Outlook) accounted for nearly all usage and new services or applications needed to integrate easily with these.
  • Having support for key workflows and tasks was a frequently expressed requirement. Many researchers felt that the biggest problems they faced were not related to their research itself but concerned some of the organisational and management tasks required. Examples included: Preparing a funding proposal, Obtaining ethics approval for research activities and financially tracking collaborative projects.