Caterpillar RSSM Redesign
Much of the below information, including screenshots, I received explicit permission from my supervisor to proceed with this project with a few caveats, including customizing data to mask actual costs, and to insure Caterpillar-proprietary processes are not compromised.  I have taken extreme precautions the materials below do as much of the above as possible.  While I no longer work for Caterpillar, I still have an extreme amount of pride and respect for the company, countless friends and coworkers, and want to do no damage to the relationship I still retain with the company.

Caterpillar, Inc.:

Project Scope:
Prototype a redesign a dynamic web site by applying usability principles and models, including user needs assessment and requirements, pre- and post-design usability testing techniques, analysis of architectural structures, applying evaluation and usability testing methods to the product to validate design decisions using classic user testing and heuristic inspection, and analyzing final test data for proposed secondary usability enhancements.

RSSM (Request to Scrap Surplus Material) is a ColdFusion web application used by procurement analysts, inventory managers, and accounting personnel when a specific part (for example, a spark plug) is to be retired on a given date, and that quantities of that specific part should be minimized by that day.  Thus, Caterpillar "yellow dollars" lost scrapping parts is noticeably minimized.

This project was for the Lafayette facility.  There are eight (8) other facilities in North America that use similar versions of the web application.

Project Assessment:
While officially an academic project, this was David's first foray into professional usability testing project.  To say this project was an eye-opening experience is an understatement, for a number of different reasons.

For starters, this project was David's first project specific towards the study of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).  David had not taken any introductory HCI courses, and jumped right into Design and Evaluation of User Interfaces.  This was a venture for David to exit a normal comfort level with his technical background and current employment, and into the proper evaluation of application design, which has been considered more of a luxury activity in his position, rather than an integral part of software and web site creation.

Second, this project allowed him to really venture into the user side of web site design strategies.  While David performed interviews and evaluations with actual users at their own desks, he also started taking more notes regarding the context at which the application was being used by users.  Application context is often a forgotten factor in usability design, as one application may be fine for an office desk environment, but the same application may fail miserably on a factory floor, at home, etc.  As an IT analyst doing the coding, we often forget about taking the role of the user themselves.  We often figure users, when using specialized software, will adapt to the most functional of applications, even if the design and usability factors leave something to be desired. 

Lastly, during the contextual inquiry phase, David uncovered a significant loophole that, once corrected via overall process and supporting application changes, would save a single facility approximately $750,000 per year in personnel, equipment, and supplies savings and greatly streamline the process.  A 6-Sigma project was created for this work to be performed, and was in discussions at the time of David's departure from the company.

Usability Methods Used:
  • Project Identification, Purpose, & Problem Space
  • Requirements Questionnaire
  • User Profiles
  • Task Analysis
  • Task Scenarios
  • Contextual Inquiry & Analysis
  • Performance Testing
  • Usability Requirements
  • Human Action Cycle (HAC) Modeling & Analysis
  • Design & Create Static & Dynamic Prototypes
  • Heuristic Inspections
  • Requirements Evaluation
  • Conduct Usability Focus Group Sessions
  • Executive Summary for Final Recommendations
This was an individual project covering an entire semester (4+ months).  All activities were performed by David during either off-shift hours or during non-work time periods (ie, lunchtime).  David's test subjects were all knowledgeable in either the application or the RSSM process and volunteered their time/services for his project.
Project Deliverables:

RSSM Task Analysis (pdf)
RSSM Content Diagram (pdf)
RSSM Architectural Schematic (pdf)
RSSM Focus Group discussion (wav - available upon request)
RSSM Final Report (pdf)
RSSM Final Presentation (pdf)
Interactive Prototype Web Site (link - not included, due to proprietary reasons)
Formal Presentation and Demonstration (available on request - 20 minute video)