Domain Expert User Development: The SmartGov Approach

George Lepouras, Costas Vassilakis, Constantin Halatsis, Panagiotis Georgiadis
Communications of the ACM, Volume 50 , Issue 9

End-user development (EUD) aims to empower end-users with the necessary tools to implement their own software. In this sense domain expert user development can be viewed as a special case of EUD. Domain experts can be considered to be a special case of end-users who possess the necessary knowledge of how the software should operate, what tasks it has to carry out, which business rules need to be enforced, validation checks to perform, etc. It has to be noted that in some cases domain experts will not use the produced software themselves, this software however will indirectly support their work, e.g. software developed by tax officers (domain experts) to be used by tax payers (actual end-users) simplifies the subsequent work of tax officers through minimization of errors, population of electronic data repositories etc.

Using a user-centred software engineering paradigm domain expert users will work along with software developers to create specifications for the software to be implemented by the latter group. This process is usually iterative. Domain experts will be questioned by developers, developers will design a first prototype, the domain experts will most probably ask for changes, developers will come back with an altered prototype, etc. Since both user groups are usually involved in other assignments as well, this process can be time-consuming. Impedance mismatch problems, i.e. problems in the communication between the domain experts and the IT staff due to different backgrounds, perspectives and terminology result into additional delays within this phase. An alternative to this would be to help domain experts to create the software with a minimum or no involvement of IT personnel. This is the approach adopted in the SmartGov project . In the framework of SmartGov a knowledge-based platform was developed that assists public sector employees with suitable domain expertise to generate online transaction services by simplifying their development, maintenance and integration with installed IT systems.

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