Evangelizing Mainframe
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Engaging Users and Reducing Complexity: z/OSMF Software Deployment

The z/OS Management Facility (z/OSMF) Software Deployment task, introduced with z/OSMF V1R13, is an ease-of-use solution that allows you to deploy any SMP/E-installed software within a sysplex or across sysplexes. The path to designing and developing the software deployment task is an excellent example of how the z/OS team engaged users to ensure its usability. In addition to collaborating with users, we measured the usability of the z/OSMF Software Deployment task through complexity analysis.

Early on, our System z customers identified areas for our team to focus our ease-of-use initiatives via our z/OS Consumability Experience survey, which measures our customers’ total experience with z/OS products. Of those results, two market drivers were identified as having high importance. The first was the “Rapid Integration into Existing Environment” with an emphasis on the criteria to “Provide a Failsafe Deployment into Production for Mainframes.” The second market driver was “Readily Adapts to Customer Requirements” with an emphasis on the criteria of “User Interface Ease of Use.” The survey data showed consumability gaps in how well we were meeting customer needs in these two areas. As a result, the z/OS team listened to our customers and made simplifying software deployment a primary usability focus area.

Because ease of use of our solutions was of high importance for customers, I wanted to share with you the two methods we used to determine that the z/OSMF Software Deployment task was going to meet end users’ needs. First, we utilized a user-centered design process, where we considered the skills and business needs of target users throughout the design and development process. For example, as our team made decisions about the design of the GUI, we kept in mind the users’ mental model of how they would expect to interact with our solution.

Next, we followed our stakeholder feedback process, where we iteratively gathered feedback from both internal and external stakeholders throughout the development lifecycle of the z/OSMF Software Deployment task. As a result of this collaboration, we were able to improve the usability of our solution, avoid design problems, confirm our design and identify future requirements. If you’re currently a participant of our stakeholder feedback program and would like to share your experience in working with us, please post a comment.

In addition to end-user collaboration, we utilized a methodology called complexity analysis, which is one of my new favorite tools in my usability toolbox. It yields quantifiable data to show the ease of use of the products we design. This is important because, over the years, we’ve only had qualitative metrics to communicate the ease of use of our products. Complexity analysis allows us to show how we’re addressing the z/OS consumability gaps identified from feedback we’ve received via our z/OS Consumability Experience survey.

This analysis measures the complexity of each step in an end-to-end task, and determines where in the flow potential pain points exist. The methodology utilizes six heuristics that influence the overall complexity of a product; including context shifts, navigational guidance, input parameters, system feedback, error feedback and new concepts. Our goals were to:

• Determine if the z/OSMF Software Deployment task provided an intuitive navigation
• Ensure that the Software Deployment task was designed for new and experienced system programmers
• Identify potentially complex steps when deploying software and use results to prioritize future requirements
• Benchmark the complexity of the current release

The results of the complexity analysis showed, that indeed, navigating the z/OSMF Software Deployment task is intuitive, and both new and experienced system programmers could successfully complete all tasks. In addition, we identified steps where we could reduce the number of context shifts in order to improve the usability of specific steps. We also plan to continue applying our complexity metrics to help us keep track of how well we’re improving the usability of the z/OSMF Software Deployment task in future releases.

I encourage you to engage with our z/OS team to make sure we continue to drive ease of use into our solutions. You can either take or retake our Consumability Experience survey to provide us with an up-to-date evaluation of the release of z/OS you’re running, or consider participating in our Stakeholder Feedback program.

We have renamed the z/OSMF Software Deployment task to the z/OSMF Software Management task, since the first release, as we’ve added valuable functions that simplify the process for cloning z/OS images and deploying z/OS software and maintenance. If you’re currently using the z/OSMF Software Deployment or Software Management tasks, I’d love to hear your thoughts about your current user experience. If you aren’t using either tool, I’d be interested to learn why and hear about your current user experience with deploying z/OS software. Please post a comment below so others can benefit from the discussion! You can also email me at irivera@us.ibm.com to share your thoughts on this topic.

Iris Rivera is a user experience professional specializing in System z Software UCD and usability at IBM. In her eight years at IBM she’s acted as the liaison between people and technology, by using various methodologies like stakeholder feedback, to ensure IBM develops solutions that meet the needs of their customers and end users. She is also one of the co-founders of zNextGen.

Posted: 3/19/2013 1:01:01 AM by Iris Rivera

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