Designing Work and IT Systems : A Participatory Process that Supports Usability and Sustainability

Abstract: Since the use of computers and IT systems has become an essential part of many people’s daily work, the quality of IT systems’ is becoming more important for efficient, healthy and sustainable work. It has often been argued that the full potential of a new, supportive IT system seldom is achieved, because – despite implementation of the new system - outdated work procedures are still being preserved. We can also see an increase in occupational health problems that are related to the use of poorly designed IT systems. This thesis addresses the questions of how to create a process for developing a sustainable, IT- supported work for the future and how to provide a solid foundation for the development of IT systems. What underlying perspectives should be applied and how can such a process be carried out in practice? Utilizing an action research approach inspired by participatory design methods, a user-centred seminar process called the Vision Seminar Process (VSP) has been developed to address these questions. Observations are presented from three cases in which the VSP has contributed to the organizations’ development and during which the Vision Seminar Process itself continued to evolve. The process provides a framework where practitioners and designers cooperate in the design of both sustainable work and usable IT systems. It is of central importance that a reflective in-depth analysis of users’ work practices is carried out, that their entire work situation and organization is questioned and discussed, and that the design process is carried out with a focus on healthy and sustainable work. Underlying perspectives that advocate a focus on a future work are essential for the successful implementation of the process, in that IT should be the engine that drives the development of work and creates the conditions for a healthy, sustainable work.