Looking at Technology Solutions Through an Operational Prism
Anyone who has purchased a new phone, vehicle, or tool at some point asks themselves why certain functions exists. Why does it work this way, why did they change this, and exactly who did they obtain requirements from? End users are usually left pondering “if only they had asked me.”
When it comes to information technology (IT) tools, providers typically cater functionality and usability requirements to large and diverse populations. Providers have become adept at the process of identifying global needs, first considering the masses to address the needs of the most possible users.
Creating IT tools for use in operational environments is not dramatically different, but there are some nuances that designers and developers need to understand and consider. First, designing tools for mission operators and environments requires the understanding that this audience is always going to be laser-focused on mission success. For IT solutions in these environments, complexity is the enemy of usability. Simple to use tools maximize mission impact. In a law enforcement environment, you should also expect a heightened sense of urgency due to the nature of what they do – provide safety, response, and recovery.
Mining core IT needs from these groups that addresses mission gaps and provides measurable impact requires not just understanding the mission, but how the mission is accomplished. Look for and evaluate solutions through an ‘operational prism.’ To deliver powerful systems, walk in the shoes of a Border Patrol agent, an immigration officer, or Secret Service agent.
These understated considerations are often ignored. Design teams should consider:
- Form and Function – Empathizing with the end user’s operational environment is the key to understanding the difference between what the tool was designed to support, versus how it performs under extreme operational circumstances
- Accessibility – Operational responders are rarely in a static environment, often attempting access from a patrol car, van, or forward temporary post. Understanding their challenges requires direct observation of personnel on the ground and testing in an operational environment
- Usability – Know the users – their abilities and their pain points. Understand and appreciate that for the tool to be successful it needs to be employed by the novice IT user, who’s use could impact the safety of those they are responding to support. If operators can’t easily and quickly get to it, they won’t use it
If we listen, learn, and fully appreciate what users are up against, we have a much better chance of creating tools and solutions that mission operators will use and share across the mission space.
About Arc Aspicio
Arc Aspicio is a management, strategy, and technology consulting firm that takes a mission-oriented approach to complex client challenges. Focused on innovation, Arc Aspicio provides services in strategy, design, human capital, operations, analytics and visualization, technology, and information sharing. The company is known for a strong, collaborative culture that values gratitude, provides leadership opportunities, and explores the future. Our teams use a human-centered approach to working with clients and are flexible and responsive within dynamic Government client environments that often have new priorities and evolving missions. We thrive on these situations and promote continuous improvement and new ideas. And, #welovedogs! Follow us on Twitter @arcaspicio or learn more at www.arcaspicio.com.