Chatbots True Value Maybe Killing the 'Endless Form'

May 9, 2017 | 1545 Views

It had been a year and half since we collected initial requirements and were now implementing 1.0 of a Grants System for our Federal client. As the Architect on the project. I was now helping with user training in preparation for launch. I felt pretty good. We had addressed all of the requirements around the reports our Management client had needed. Our system would enforce all of the complicated business rules that needed to be executed to before issuing a grant. all of the workflows would be initiated so emails didn't need to be manually be sent and tracked for long approval chains.

As training began my confidence quickly eroded. I started to see the look on the faces of the users not involved in our sprint demos who were seeing the system for the first time. They looked dismayed and as they started to talk I understood their feelings, One user said to me:

"It looks nice, but you replaced one long endless form of fields with a more attractive looking endless form filled with fields, We do this job to help people not get stuck behind a computer entering data"

Up to that point I as an Architect had always been caught up with the thought that our system would solve all of their problems and as a result they would want to live in the application. However the knowledge workers that used the system did not want to live in the system they wanted to help communities get their grant projects off the ground, they looked at the "endless form" as an added step not something that was ever going to fulfill the process.

The rise of the electronic form gave way to things like structuring data collected from users which allow us to initiate business logic and trigger workflows. Things like dropdown fields and AJAX controls pre-populating fields prevented data from outside of a list of values from being selected for any given field, While these have been hugely helpful. they do disrupt creative flows as users see forms where they have to provide information and instantly get frustrated. I do it myself with activities like having to provide shipping and credit card information for an online purchase. This frustration is compounded when you have to provide much longer sets of data, multiple times of the day, every day, Inevitably users see logging into the system to enter their data around their knowledge work processes as one more step as opposed to facilitating the process, During training, I have seen users learning to use a system log-in, navigate from one link to another searching for a key instance of data (e.g. a grant worker seeking a specific grant, a doctor seeking a specific patient and so on), Along the way they are presented with all types of information from dashboards, to long lists of data, Once they arrive at the instance, they are presented with a long set of fields which may be elegantly sub-divided into collapsible sections or tabs, but yet they ultimately get lost and often forget why they came into the system in the first place, As system designers and architects we don't necessarily see a problem with this because with all of the reports and information we surface we may be providing useful insight, however we may be doing so at the expense of allowing users to do things as quickly as possible so they can get out of the system and do the knowledge work they are passionate about whether its allowing Grant experts to support Grantees, Health Care workers supporting Patients, or Investigators solving cases. Read More

Source: Chatbots Life