Like many highly regulated organizations, life sciences companies are burdened with expensive-to-maintain legacy systems and applications infrastructure. Modernizing those apps and systems has become a big talking point in the industry. CSC keenly understands the importance of solving this problem, realizing the opportunities for improvement span from improving the front-end experience for the user to modernizing the back-end system. Application modernization has become critical to meeting user needs and company wallets.
The challenge in the business world is that the applications that were developed for business process models tended to be built on a technology provider’s view of the world – the provider gives you the experience they think you need and you are stuck with it. In reality, though, 80% of the users of such systems are consumers who want a simple, easy-to-use interface such as that on their iPhone or Android smartphone that allows them to do their day-to-day jobs without having to use a reference manual to perform simple tasks. The consumer-driven requirements have tilted the business world to follow suit.
So we decided to put apps modernization into practice at CSC by taking a step back with FirstDoc and focusing on CSC’s documented four key facets for the new world of Apps: the User Engagement, Application Context, Application Modalities and User Interface design. We began by asking what do users need to achieve, what devices do they use in their day-to-day activities, where will they be using the application, and what is the most effective way for them to achieve their task? This required the team to begin by following the process of user-centric design, which builds an understanding of the user by asking questions about age distribution, background experience, educational background, typical expectations, familiarity with modern devices and software application familiarity.
Then we looked at the business processes they need in place to do their job. In Life Sciences, the whole process has been driven by documentation, which was mandated by the regulatory authorities but over time has moved from a paper view of the world to an electronic view of the world. Historically, in the paper world, people performing fairly routine tasks with documents would have had a folder on their desk containing all the procedures they needed to use, personalized to their job requirements. But then when we moved into the electronic world, the tendency was to put in place granular control of the documentation because of regulatory concerns. That meant people had to go through complex navigation, often differing from day to day. CSC recognized the need to simplify the way people work and allow them to create their own sets of working sets of documents by simply opening them and using them as and when they need them.
In response, we’ve built a dashboard model of the FirstDoc system, allowing users to identify the set of documents they want, initially through search or navigation, but then keep them in a work-in-progress folder that they can immediately go to each morning without having to start a new navigation each day. In this way, when the user logs on and clicks on to their own personalized folder, they are taken immediately to a working set of documents. This will simplify use for the 80% who use the system, giving them the information they need without any challenges, one click away.
Simplifying Review and Approval
Then we looked at who the other main users of the systems are, and these are predominantly those who review and approve documents. They aren’t involved in the authoring – in fact, the number of authors is small. So how do we simplify the job for approvers and reviewers? In the past, these reviewers had to deal with a complex set of business process modelling tools and workflows that involved numerous steps to open a document, add comments to it and approve it.
That was never the intent. The idea was to model the inbox on the old-fashioned in-tray, and present a list of documents that needed approval. But instead, users were presented with a set of complex theoretical components they needed to understand – a task, a workflow and other system-related information. It was too complicated. With our FirstDoc application modernization, users simply log into the system and are presented with a to-do list, where they click on an item and can approve a document in one stroke. It’s all about trying to simplify the interaction that the infrequent user has with the system, because the volume of infrequent users is far greater than those who use it every day.
The other aspect to the modernization is technical, the App DNA. As the device (or client) gains independence from the data, this leads to the rise of responsive users on the client side and API (application programming interface) economy on the server side. By putting in place open APIs between the devices and the server back end, you open up the whole environment to innovation and integration opportunities that couldn’t be considered before. In essence, users want to be able to have an application work on multiple different devices. They don’t want to be forced down the path of having to use their company-provided laptop; they want to be able to use the app on their tablet in the same way. So we performed a technical refresh to allow the FirstDoc app to be used on any device.
Our FirstDoc modernization has involved a business process refresh, a user interaction refresh and a technology refresh. In other words, the solution is presented in an environment users are accustomed to, using a business process model that made sense for the user. However, we wanted to do it without the high cost of an upgrade to the customer. To do that, we’ve peeled away the existing interface and added in the new one without changing the rules engine or underlying infrastructure. All companies need to do is deploy this new user interface.
CSC is putting our money where our mouth is. We aim to surpass our client’s evolving user requirements through our intuitive approach to modernizing the FirstDoc interface.
By Paul Attridge, CSC Life Science Product Technology Strategist