To summarize, we have developed a proof-of-principle prototype of a tool to support authoring, refining, reporting, and using concept of operations information that describes how a new system will support its end users. The prototype is usable and useful, but needs additional refinement to have the
smooth quality of a commercial product. Early uses of the tool confirm the value of integrating text and graphics to illustrate how a new system will support its users.
Those uses also underscore the value of entering descriptive information under specialized data categories to support flexible uses of the information. Finally, a product-oriented workflow assistance view of the tool enabled users to see simple uses of the tool tailored to their project goals. In addition to the findings based on direct experience with supporting ongoing projects at NASA Johnson Space Center, we have additional observations about this tool and about
software development in general.
First, the storyboard tool has a wide range of potential uses. We tested it in the context of small, innovative software projects at Johnson Space Center. We believe it can be easily extended to support much larger projects. In fact, larger
projects probably benefit more from developing ConOps information than smaller ones because of the difficulty of gaining consensus in larger groups. Also, we tested with space-related projects, but it is applicable to a wide variety of domains. ConOps documents were originally developed to support system acquisition for defense projects, so it is rather certain that this tool based in ConOps document organization could support military applications.
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It is difficult to build software systems that provide effective
support to users in performing their tasks. Much of the
difficulty is translating a good idea about user task support
into smoothly running software applications that provide
useful and usable support. In the course of expressing the
concept for a new system, stakeholders often become
distracted from the original concept: support for human task
performance (Thronesbery & Malin, 1998).