Sunday, July 22, 2007
Bridging the Front Stage and Back Stage in Service System Design
For most of my professional career I've designed and deployed information-intensive applications and systems. I wrote a book about Document Engineering and teach courses about it at UC Berkeley. And in the last year or so that I’ve been blogging here, a lot of my posts have been about business informatics, information supply chains, and document automation. In all of this work, writing, and teaching I've generally focused on the "back stage" where information is managed, transformed, and moved within and between business systems, and haven't paid much explicit attention to the "people parts" or "front ends."
But I've now come to recognize that it is essential to consider the entire network of services that comprise the back and front stages as complementary parts of a Service System. This paper is my first attempt to present a methodology for designing service systems that synthesizes (front-stage-oriented) user-centered design techniques with (back-stage) methods like Document Engineering for designing information-intensive applications. The paper briefly sketches the core ideas, especially those that most explicitly concern the interactions and tradeoffs between front and back stage design.
The typical design conflicts and tradeoffs between front and back designers are lessened by a service system perspective. Front stage service providers need capabilities for capturing information about front stage preferences, contexts, and events. This and other back stage information can then be exploited by the front stage to enhance the service experience.
Lindsay and I are working on a longer paper that more fully develops this approach, and I'm also developing a new course tentatively called "Design Models and Methods" that will be a good forum for seeing if a unified methodology is learnable and useful.