Written by Tenly Snow, OpenLMIS Community Manager
A question that often comes to mind when designing software is, “whose opinion matters?” Is it the software developer? The product manager? The client? The end user?
While the answer is, of course, all of these, wouldn’t it make the most sense to start with the end user, the person who will actually be putting the software to work in the real world? Instead of prescribing a solution in a top-down manner and hoping you hit the mark, what about starting with the end user and asking, “what do you really need?” and then basing your design on that input? This is the idea behind the concept of human-centered, or user-centered design (UCD).
The philosophy at the heart of user-centered design is that optimal product design should center around how users want or need to use the product, rather than forcing a user to change their behavior to accommodate the product.
The reasons for a user-centered design approach are many. By designing a product using UCD, evidence is introduced into decision-making, creating an environment where design choices can be validated and tested. Building becomes less about guesswork and more about meeting real need, and above all, the end product is likely to be far more functional and usable.
OpenLMIS strives to embody concepts of UCD both in thought leadership and in practice. In 2017, OpenLMIS conducted its first francophone user-centered design workshop in Dakar, Senegal where 12 representatives from Ministry of Health Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) programs in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, and Senegal, plus WHO International representation, came to share their experience and describe the real challenges faced in immunization delivery in their countries. As experts in their field, these MOH EPI managers provided invaluable insight into the actual needs of vaccine logistics systems, and helped OpenLMIS design software that really works to manage vaccines.
The workshop was specifically focused on the workflows and data elements associated with decision-making for resupplying vaccines and had three primary objectives:
- Define and understand the processes for resupplying vaccines
- Define the workflows and data required for good vaccine resupply management
- Create prototypes responding to these workflows in order to inform the development of the vaccine module in OpenLMIS
Sessions on design thinking, persona building, process mapping, and prototyping brought participants together to think collaboratively across their diversity of experiences. While specifics varied from country to country, participants found more in common than expected, reaching consensus on workflows, processes, and norms within the supply chain.
The outcome of the 3-day workshop was a set of process maps, design recommendations, mock-ups, and user personas (idealized system users) that is directly informing development of the user interface (UI) and functionality for the OpenLMIS vaccine module.
Without the user-centered design workshop, development of the resupply functionality in the OpenLMIS vaccine module would have been educated guesses, informed by secondary experience, but overall, incomplete. By involving end users in the workflow and UI design of the vaccine module, OpenLMIS is building a more usable, functional system that will meet user’s actual needs in real-life situations.
The francophone user-centered design workshop is all part of building theOpenLMIS version 3 series, focused on adding vaccine functionality and enhancing existing stock management, resupply, and other functionality for a full-featured electronic LMIS for vaccines.
For complete details on the OpenLMIS feature development for the vaccine module, please see the Vaccine MVP page.
Please visit the Living Product Roadmap for feature development timelines and details.
The OpenLMIS Initiative’s mission is to make powerful LMIS software available in low-resource environments – providing high-quality logistics management to improve health commodity distribution in low- and middle-income countries. OpenLMIS increases data visibility, helping supply chain managers identify and respond to commodity needs, particularly at health facilities where lack of data significantly impacts the availability of key medicines and vaccines.
Learn more at openlmis.org, or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
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