End User Computing Use Cases

This is the third in a series of posts about end user computing and desktop architectures. In a previous post I discussed a preliminary conceptual architecture for end user computing.  What I want to look at in this post is ways of understanding how people work (in relation to end user computing) that could  inform our understanding of what our architecture needs to address and therefore ultimately look like.  In order to create the right end user computing architecture you need to understand the needs that the people in your enterprise have for end user computing. And, in order to understand the needs of your people for end user computing you need to have some sort of way of looking at different ways they have of interacting with their computing environment and tool-sets.  The approach I am taking here is to outline a set of “use cases” that describe scenarios where people interact with the end user computing environment in different ways. Once we have these use cases we can then analyse our user community to see which combinations of use cases we need to support. From there we might take a range of approaches.  We might offer a range of services to our users. We might segment our user base and then attempt to create solutions (or sets of solutions) that meet the needs of each segment. We might (if our people’s needs are homogeneous enough) create one solution for everyone. But the starting point for any solution must be to understand the fundamental needs you have to meet.

A set of end user computing use cases

End User Computing Use Cases

The first key division is between scenarios where people need to access computing while mobile to do their jobs versus those scenarios where people need to be in a fixed location to do their jobs.

Mobile use cases are scenarios where a person needs access to ICT resources while out and about. That might mean, while they are away from the “office” or it might mean that they don’t have an office. Fixed working scenarios are where the person needs to work in a fixed location, a particular space, or have no need to be mobile (a subtly different thing, but for present purposes I’ll assume that they are equivalent).

There are a number of sub-categories of these use cases that are common to both:

  • Consumers: these are the situations where people primarily just need to consume content to perform their tasks/role/job. They may need to read documents, look at websites, view reports, watch videos and listen to audio. Their need to create content  is minimal, perhaps restricted to merely editing existing content such as documents or reports. Mobile consumers might include board members who need to read board papers while travelling. Fixed consumers might include front desk staff whose only ICT need is to read company newsletters and policies.
  • Creator: here we have situations where people need to create content. This could be documents, images, diagrams or reports. An example of the mobile creator scenario is a consultant who primarily works at different customer sites, and needs to write reports while they are there. The “typical office worker” (if there is such a thing!) is an example of the fixed creator. They need to work at the office (to work with their team, to be found by people who need to talk to them), and they need to create standard content.
  • Power Creator: The Power creator use case is where a person needs to utilise powerful technical resources tools to create more challenging content. I have in mind here people such as graphic designers who need sophisticated software to create their images, publications or rich media content, engineers who need specialised engineering software and powerful computers to create engineering designs or programmers who need a range of specialised programming tools and environments to create applications. We find this scenario in both mobile and fixed versions – graphic designers who work anywhere, programmers who work primarily on customer sites, and the equivalent roles which are based in fixed locations.
  • Specialist: this scenario is where in order to perform their function people need access to specialised ICT resources, specifically specialised hardware. The mobile specialist scenario is where a person needs access to specialised mobile such as a ruggedised device, a bar code scanner or a mobile point-of-sale terminal. Fixed specialist scenarios include health workers who need to use medical ICT equipment to perform their jobs.

Specific to mobile working, we have the Mobile Communicator scenarios where a mobile worker just needs to communicate while out and about. They need access to a range of different forms of communication such as voice, text, video, email and calendaring. (In theory there could be a fixed equivalent, but in practice I expect this would be rare to non-existent.)

Specific to fixed working we have two scenarios:

  • Multiple Locations: this is the scenario where a person has to work in several fixed locations to perform their role. This is different from mobile working in that the number of locations and the particular locations they must work in are fixed and do not change frequently or regularly. Examples might include someone who is a receptionist for two different buildings at different times (a situation we have at my work!) or a doctor who works at two different practices.
  • Task Worker: this is the scenario of a person whose job just involves performing the same limited set of tasks over and over. They don’t create content, certainly not content of any variety, but they do more than just consume content. Examples of this include people who work in processing centres or data entry operators.

Lastly we have the scenario of Work from Home where someone needs to perform some of their work from their home rather than from an office or customer workplace.

With this set of use cases in place, we can analyse each person or role in an organisation to see which use cases they encounter in fulfilling their functions. When we look at this analysis we will hopefully be able to see some patterns – perhaps a set of profiles common to many roles or people – that will allow us to design and deploy common ICT end user tools to address their needs.

Disclaimer: this post has been informed and influenced by discussions I have had with representatives of Microsoft, Citrix and VMware. I have also been inspired by some of the work done by architects in the NZ public health sector.

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