Prototyping at DTF


Australian, Aborigional, Torres Straits and Victorian flags fly over the DTFs front door

Prototypes, prototypes and more prototypes

Last week at the Department we’ve been brainstorming some concepts about how to improve the quality and frequency of reporting by other government departments

While we are still yet to gain access to any actual users of our systems we have begun creating paper prototypes of potential solutions and showing them to users with a similar perspective and members of the general public

Below we will detail all of the designs, both epic-survivor and fail-whale to discuss some of there pros and cons. The opinions and ideas expressed below are a mix of all the above mentioned stakeholders liberally mixed with my own biases and forgetfulness.

You can click on the icons below to see the full sized images and leave a comment below if any catch your fancy (or make you ill)

#01 - Autofill prototype

The simple idea of using DTF and other public data to auto populate fields in the form

This prototype provoked the best stakeholder comment of the day… “Isn’t this what you’re doing?”

While this is a fairly common form technique and one we are assuming we will use, we still wanted to put it in front of our users and get feedback on exceptions to the rule or any little caveats they may think might apply to this form

In particular we were warned to be careful with geographic boundaries of municipalities and post-codes

There are also cases where we want to encourage thinking and observing over just getting it done quick. In some of these cases we may want to consider not autofilling some fields even if we can

#02 - Lastfill prototype

This concept fills in the form with the last used answers in a distinct color, fields can be updated or left with the defaults

Although the prototype was rejected as it might encourage less thinking about responses, there were some insights gleaned in any case

Firstly was a feature we’d not considered, an audit trail

Additionally there may be some cases where highlighting (or red flagging) variations or changes to the status of a project

#03 - Saved fields prototype

This concept is to save the most commonly used options in a drop down or combo list

Might be handy for some fields, but is also likely to promote no-thinking submissions, probably a no no in most situations

#04 - Fast feedback prototype

This concept alerts users to issues in the form and prompts the DTF for prompt action

The confirmation of completion model was very well received although the DTF will not be contacting any departments without an explicit request

Red flagging incomplete fields would also be a good feature

Validation of form data like the current excel trials could also be a good feature

#05 - Saved progress prototype

The idea of saving (maybe with login or maybe on local storage) a form in a half completed state

Saving progress is a must have as the form may take some time to complete

Simple background saving would be the best mode and the ability to export to pdf would also be appreciated

#06 - Multidementional input prototype

Allow for a more fluid or human feel by replacing radio buttons with two dimentional graphs

Multidimensional inputs were thoroughly derided (thankfully) as were any other attempts to fuzzify scoring away from integers

#07 - Examples included prototype

This concept includes examples of what would constitute a score of a certain value in each field

The idea of including examples for users to refer to was also discouraged as the DTF do not want to be seen to be dictating how departments score contractors

This kind of implies that getting standardized scoring could be problematic or at least difficult

#08 - Workflow management prototype

This form has a backend to monitor the progress and dates of a contract and allert key people at the right moment or automate preprepared automated tasks

Feedback suggests this would be useful in conjunction with reminders to kick start the process after a waiting period

Looks good and is worth showing to the departments for further feedback

#09 - Importing data prototype

This concept coould import much of the required data from a departments own CMS/otherMS/database/spreadsheets

We were warned that departments might not have systems sophisticated enough to export reports from, or those reports might contain insufficient data

Any changes discovered in static data should be flagged and investigated

It is also unlikely that the departments would be wiling to share internal reports

Additionally the issue of who is going to pay for all this came up during this prototype (although the question holds for any solution and is a factor we have so far only considered in passing)

#10 - Segmented prototype

This is a build your own adventure reporting form meta-form

Some employees will not like the idea of building their own forms

Besides, all fields are mandatory … maybe this is why no one gives much feedback now?

#11 - Educational prototype

This prototype would include guidelines and educational material on how to assess the quality and performance of a construction project

An expand/collapse all toggle would be essential, along with back to top markers

Otherwise this one is a good idea as long as it’s not done with hover tips

#12 - Freeform reporting prototype

This was a fun concept that came out of a group brainstorming session, just a field for the contract number and a whole world of opportunities

Hell no! was approximately the feedback this prototype received… but if time allowed this just might grant significant insight into the issues, and wouldn’t you just love to see what came back

#13 - Spreadsheet prototype

This concept was to make people comfortable with spreadsheets feel right at home, the extra cells could be used for intermediate calculations with the locations of the final values the only predefined locations, this way the departments could build their own forms in a compatible way

Not very well received, but might still be an interesting final touch

#14 - Journey mapping prototype

This prototype allows a user to order the form as they wish and then provides visual indicators of progress and breadcrumbs for backtracking or skipping ahead

This design was very well received by our test audience

Autosaving is a must

Sections must not be able to be skipped

#15 - Delegation prototype

This met-form concept makes it easy to delegate sub-components to any person or group, allowing for a collabrotive final report

Usually this is performed by one person, but this would be great for two or more

Education department in particular might be interested

Confidentiality concerns for segments that might be sent out to external entities

#16 - Reminders and alerts prototype

This concept is just for a system to monitor public contracting information and prompt departments that reporting on a contract is (over?) due

Reminders would be very worthwhile, and detailing the reason for the update/review would also be great

Worth discussing with Housing and other departments

Some people would have too many reports and a summary or digest might be more appropriate

Include links to forms and resources

More time for departments to plan for reporting rather than reacting after the fact would be a great thing

#17 - Indirect scoring prototype

This concept was to use multiple reviewers and utilise the wisdom of the crouds to use something like the mean values on the final report

Not well received as it involves duplication of effort

However time based aggregation might be useful for displaying sensitive information to the public

Another idea might be to aggregate different classes of reporting (such as department/contractor/public)

#18 - Analytics prototype

This concept was just to display a publicly visible dashboard of Victorian procurement reporting, allowing the public visibility so that they can exert pressure on departments to improve reporting to DTF

Reporting to departments on their reporting (gamification of the reporting process). Dep v Dep leaderboards. Allow contractors to report on departments too (allows them to exert pressure on departments to report better)

#19 - Input flavours prototype

This idea allows users to flip between different styles of input for ratings for example from radio boxes, sliders, numeric text or some other method

Fuzzy inputs might not help anything. Might lead to inconsistent scoring

#20 - Gamification prototype

This concept was to increase engagement by rewarding participation with points and harnessing the competitive nature of people by creating some kind of leaderboard of reported data

Positive feedback on both aspects

Feedback also indicated a work-to-go meter might be more pleasant than a work-done meter

#21 - Data independence prototype

This concept allows departments to host there own solutions under the condition they provide an API to allow DTF to access the data it requires to evaluate performance on a contract

This could take the form of a simple API specification or an “out of the box” prerolled solution (something like a python server, postgresBD & custom DTF UI on a thumb-drive ready to rock a web-API)

Review specific data will still need to be kept somewhere

Usually data is locked up in a CMS system

We could use a shadow database into which we dump the public aspects, then we can expose that without risk

Auditability and traceability of data then becomes an issue

Requires work to make data available, but would be very valuable

Well, thats all for now kiddo

Well that the roundup of our current prototypes, hopefully we’ll have a few digitized versions for you to click on soon enough

In the mean time feel free to send any Comments, Corrections, Concerns, Complaints or anything else beginning with the letter “C” to DTF Project Feedback… that is if you don’t feel like leaving a comment in our spiffy new comments section below telling us which ones you love and/or hate :D

Written on September 5, 2016