Introducing usability into a large Government organisation

27 Nov 2012 - 4:38am
3 years ago
1 reply
1423 reads
Jeremy DEagle

I'm hoping you can help me. I've been allocated the role within my organisation to look at how we can improve the usability of our systems. I'm not from a UX background at all so this is proving quire difficult. One positive to have come out of it is that I've realised this is the kind of area I'd like to work in. I'm a fairly junior grade within my organisation so I do have only limited influence.

The organisation is a Government department so is fairly old fashioned in its approaches. We use waterfall to a large extent and our projects tend to be fairly large and driven by business change. Our IT is largely outsourced with us specifying requirements and then contracting with large suppliers to deliver against those requirements. Our strategy is to use Commercial Off The Shelf packages (COTS) wherever possible. This clearly limits the amount of influence we can have with regards to the UI etc. The fact IT delivery is outsourced also makes it more difficult and usability needs to be specified as requirements and standards if possible.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I can tackle this? Budgets are incredibly tight so the approach of just bringing in a consultant to help isn't likely to get accepted :(


28 Nov 2012 - 2:12pm

Hi Jeremy,

That sounds like an open book regarding what the organization wants you to accomplish. Probably typical of an organization that is using a buzz word without understanding what it is they want to achieve.

I would start by walking around and observing how your customers (ie I assume this is internal employees) work now. Map out their typical work day and look for their pain points. How many of these are a result of the system? Is it poor introduction of COTS into their workflow with no explanation, no training, no support etc?  What are their goals and are they meeting them or tripping along the way? Use that as a start to get your teeth into something and start asking a whole bunch of questions based on what you see until you reveal some nugget that your team could control.

Also look at the inputs into your system - IT suppliers - and any outputs (How does what the customer produce get consumed, by whom etc)  to identify areas that could be improved by your team.

Most of all stay sane. Since they have given you an open book, take the same approach and write it for them. They probably are looking for someone to present ideas of what could be so they can then focus and budget resources on something tangible. I don't envy you. Good luck. 


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