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Getting the end-user perspective – interview with Charon van der Ham from Crisis Plan

Throughout the first months of the STAMINA project, end-user partners have had to define the user requirements for the project, such as the structure, usability, feature range, and output of the planned system. Many steps are involved in that initial project phase, including the identification of gaps on a national level, followed by a legal and current emergency frameworks gap analysis, as well as end-user workshops on a local and European level (read about our approach).

CPLAN is one of the STAMINA partners responsible for collecting requirements and feedback, guaranteeing that the project is aligned with the needs of the end-users of STAMINA’s developments.

We met with Charon van der Ham, advisor at CPLAN, in order to find out more about their approach to collecting user requirements.


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Q: First things first: why do you consider it important to involve end-users at the beginning of the project’s developments?

A: In order for STAMINA’s developments and the proposed new toolset to be a success, we need first to align with the users’ needs and desires. For a national planner or first responder, it is difficult to change current habits in their everyday working life. To let go of a well-known (even if not very efficient) emergency framework and adopt a new approach, the new framework has to be either more efficient in terms of the technologies provided or/and provide solutions to existing gaps. The goal of STAMINA is to integrate the novel provided solutions with the current emergency frameworks and toolsets, which will lead to improved preparedness and response plans and training for pandemic scenarios.

Given the fact that STAMINA is a collaborative innovation program addressing technology solutions to the field needs, the involvement of end-users from the very first steps of the project and throughout its lifespan is crucial. It is very common that users accustomed to their existing technology frameworks may not be aware of their additional needs and possible solutions.  STAMINA’s role is to identify the needs and desires of the project’s specialised and currently overwhelmed users and translate them to technological solutions. The ultimate goal is to achieve more efficient and user-friendly pandemic emergency frameworks (on national and European levels), also taking into account different parameters (prediction, diagnosis, handling of early warnings, training and simulation tools, etc.).

Q: What are some of the obstacles/challenges you have encountered while collecting user requirements?

A: Under normal circumstances, a 3-day design-thinking workshop would have taken place in a physical setting, where all end-users would have come together and spent hours elaborating on issues and topics regarding the end-user requirements. Such a workshop has been impossible to organise due to the constrictive measures adopted to constrain the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the fact that the majority of health-care professionals are currently overwhelmed by the pandemic response. Moreover, the travel restrictions and the limited availability of the end-users obliged us to make a change of plans.

Q: How do you tackle these challenges? What is CPLAN’s approach?

A: In order to efficiently collect the end-user requirements, regardless of the current pandemic situation of SARS-CoV-2, an alternative solution had to be found and applied to all participating countries. A dual solution was chosen: local mini-workshops organized virtually by the national planners and first responders per country (such as in Romania, Greece, Turkey, Spain, and the Czech Republic, in their respective languages), and a collective virtual workshop (in English).

A thorough preliminary list of user needs requirements has been prepared by the end-users, the technical, and the bioinformatic partners. The list has been circulated for 2 months and discussed between project partners, as well as in bilateral meetings between end-users and technical partners. The whole toolset to be included in STAMINA was presented in separate meetings and the end-users were fully prepared and aware of the possible issues before the workshops. Our plan to identify the current user-requirements during the first five months of the project is on the right track and the alternative solution proved itself worth trying. Our next step is to strengthen the end-users’ engagement in feedback activities throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Q: What is the status right now with the feedback from the end-user requirements?

A: During the workshops held throughout November, fruitful discussions on the prioritisation of the end-user requirements took place. As a few grey areas, regarding mainly the proposed tools, were still an issue, technical partners were also present to put forward any technical needs and questions when required. Our goal to bridge the gap between the partners of the project coming from different backgrounds was tackled and we expect that the quality and the quantity of the useful feedback will function as a valuable source of input for gathering user requirements and the upcoming work in the project. In parallel, we are working on the identification and reporting of the current processes and issues in existing pandemic emergency frameworks to be included in our Assessment and Gap analysis study, as well as for presenting the gaps in national legislation supporting pandemic policy measures.