Skip to main content

User Experience and Architecture




Architecture descriptions tend to be dry and technical-looking affairs, with pictures of structure and process flow.  I’m pleased to say that we are seizing an opportunity to present a much more visual explanation of what our target architecture will mean for our users, particularly for our students.

For the last couple of months, we’ve had usability consultants on site working with our students and staff to review the “online experience” that students receive from university systems.  They presented their findings last week, including an outline proposal for a better approach.

To no-one's surprise, the mirror they held up to us showed a rather fragmented set of systems, with unhelpful names, instructions that were often unclear, different versions of the same information, important e-mails buried among less important information, inconsistent look-and-feel, and so forth.  The details of their report are fascinating but far too long for this blog.

What is relevant here is that the consultants also sketched what an integrated experience might look like, and I am taking this part of their report to form the first draft of our target user experience.  Instead of this report being filed in a forgotten folder gathering virtual dust, I want to make it part of our architecture.  The idea is that this will be a living document, to be updated over time by our usability experts and graphic designers. 

This is important. If we are to make this integrated experience a reality, we will need lots of work behind the scenes as well as work on the user-visible aspects.  In fact, we are already working on some of the steps along this path, such as a notification backbone and a set of microservice APIs. (The consultants also praised some of this work, such as our Edinburgh Global Experience Language.)  These sorts of changes can be difficult to explain to non-technical people; with actual examples from the report, we can show people what we are looking to achieve.

A quick look online suggests that there hasn’t been a lot of work combining user experience and architecture.  Yet the two often address the same concerns, and each is necessary to deliver a successful outcome.  It seems a highly synergistic combination to me and I hope to use that synergy to help produce a much better online experience for our students.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A new EA Repository

One of my goals since starting this job two years ago has always been to create a repository for architecture documents.  The idea is to have a central store where people can find information about the University's applications, data sources, business processes, and other architectural information.  This store will make it easier for us to explain our plans, to show the current state of the University's information systems, and to explain what Enterprise Architecture is all about.

It's taken a long time to reach this goal, mainly because we're often had more pressing and immediate work to be done.  The creation of a repository is one of those tasks that is very important but never quite urgent.  So I'm now very happy to say that we are in the process of deploying a repository and modelling tool.


This is the culmination of a careful process to select the most appropriate tool for our needs.  We began by organising several workshops to gather requirements from a rang…

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…

Business Model Canvas

A Business Model Canvas is a tool for mapping the core functions and capabilities of an organisation.  Compared to the Core Diagrams that I described in an earlier post, the business model canvas attempts to present more aspects of the business, starting with the value proposition – a statement of what the organisation offers to its users (in the business world, to its customers).  It shows the activities and resources, as Core Diagrams do, but also shows user relationships & channels, and also benefits and costs.  I’m not aware of any universities that have used this tool but you can find examples from elsewhere on the web.

We are considering business model canvases as a tool for mapping the strategic capabilities of units at the University of Edinburgh.  Phil Taylor, our EA contractor, sketched an outline of what a business model canvas might begin to look like for HR:
This is only intended to be suggestive: the real canvas would need to result from in-depth discussions about th…