← INTERSECTION18 Conference Prague, September 6-7, 2018

Tim Caynes


Making sense of complex systems

Thursday, September 6
11:00 – 11:45
Conference Room

Tim Caynes
Principal Designer, Foolproof

Business systems, especially at the enterprise level, can be notoriously complex to unravel when trying to make sense of the mess. More often than not, the catalyst for change, that requires a structured design approach, is the adoption of, or migration to, a new platform. Or maybe it is consolation of a number of systems. Or maybe it’s simply “digital transformation”. Whatever the reason, when you first get an insight into the data and service architecture of the system you’re hoping to dramatically improve, it can be an uncomfortable epiphany. Where does one start with existing user’s interactions and behaviours? What even are the objects in the system and how are they related to anything? Why does the interface do such terrible, terrible things? Who did this? And what am I going to do about it?

The answer to many of those questions is often “that’s just how it is”. And that it where we turn legacy into opportunity. But in order to do that, we need a structured approach to evaluating and identifying opportunities for optimisation or innovation, and defining new architectures and models to support new behaviours or improving outcomes.

This session will consider those challenges in the context of a project cases studies that brings to life the complexities of those systems and demonstrates the impact of applying a structured approach to design optimisation. The case study comes from the arcane and complex world of corporate reinsurance – those select few insurers that insure other insurers – that brings together extraordinary complexity of information in multiple states across multiple contexts, coupled with deeply traditional human interactions and workflows. These systems deal with thousands of policy objects with multi-dimensional attributes and options, managed primarily on business systems that can be over 20 years old. But the most challenging feature of these systems is that they have been designed to administer complex data objects, not support interactions based on workflows. And there are some extraordinary workflows.

The approach outlined in this session is based on foundational experience design practice, but applied at scale, and is a framework that can be applied across a wide range of business systems.

The high-level structure of the session will be as follows:

Human behaviours

• Using study and interview to identify critical paths
• Establishing as-is states and customer outcomes
• Identifying workflow optimisations
• Describing the future experience

Objects and relationships

• Identifying system objects and entities
• Evaluating data hierarchies and relationships
• Understanding business logic and constraints
• Creating information architectures
• Using service blueprints and system diagrams

System design

• Context of use and operating environments
• Service channels and touchpoints across systems
• Designing for convergence across experience, platform and data
• Integration planning for internal and third party teams