THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY IN IT PROJECTS: A CASE STUDY ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GERMAN ELECTRONIC IDENTITY CARD

DS 68-7: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 11), Impacting Society through Engineering Design, Vol. 7: Human Behaviour in Design, Lyngby/Copenhagen, Denmark, 15.-19.08.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Culley, S.J.; Hicks, B.J.; McAloone, T.C.; Howard, T.J. & Badke-Schaub, P.
Author: Köppen, Eva; Rauth, Ingo; Schnjakin, Maxim; Meinel, Christoph
Section: Human Behaviour in Design
Page(s): 162-169

Abstract

Although there is a great interest in user driven innovation, IT industry still shows a strong focus on technology driven innovation development. Understanding the perspective and social context of the user is also not part of a regular technical education. As a result, IT development has the tendency to concentrate on technical issues while missing the users’ actual needs. In our case study on the implementation of the electronic identity card (e-IC) in Germany, we explain how this overlook of the user causes serious project failures and product errors. We argue that the lack of user-centeredness is a direct result of the underestimated value of empathy and empathic knowledge within IT projects. Beyond that we regard empathy as the most important capability, which is being developed by design thinking. Design thinking is a user-centered and problem-solving approach. In this work we hypothesize, that the more active attention is paid to empathy throughout the project, the less likely are unfeasible products, increasing costs and avoidable time delays.

Keywords: PUBLIC SECTOR; EMPATHY; EMPATHIC DESIGN; ELECTRONIC IDENTITY CARD; DESIGN THINKING

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