Our Approach

Our Applied Cognitive Systems Engineering℠ (ACSE) process


ACSE℠ is a fourth generation methodology with heritage all the way back to the seminal work by Woods, Hollnagel, Rasmussen, Lind and other researchers as they defined the field of practice now known as Cognitive Systems Engineering. Each successive refinement of the methodology has improved two essential dimensions:

1. The ability to discover and innovate novel decision support affordances that achieve the Joint Cognitive System of user and computer, and

2. The traceable, repeatable, maintainable, high quality characteristics required of an engineering process for mission critical applications

The ACSE approach comprises four main phases: Analysis, Design, Software Implementation, and Testing. Each subsequent phase builds upon the previous one, providing not only a foundation on which to build upon, but also traceable evidence of the thought process that informed each design choice. Hover over any arrow in the figure below to learn more about that particular phase.

Analysis (ACSE-A)

Cognitive Work Analysis is the first phase for designing a resilient cognitive solution. This phase uses a guided knowledge elicitation (KE) technique to enable an understanding of the domain's fundamental characteristics, operator's knowledge, reasoning strategies, and decision requirements. The analysis phase uses theories of expert decision making to convert the raw KE into the various decision and information artifacts which form the basis for the design and testing of the system.

Design (ACSE-D)

With the ACSE-A artifacts as input, the Representational Design phase specifies how to display the right information in the right context to allow the operator to focus their effort on decision-making rather than data gathering and interpretation. Designs are organized into an overall information system to mirror an expert's understanding of the specific field of work. The information is presented to the user to ensure the most important elements of the information are the most perceptually compelling. To ensure that the user's attention is naturally drawn to the most important information, principles of visual perception are used to design the salience of the representations.

Software Implementation (ACSE-I)

RCS's Software Engineers work closely with interface designers to preserve the design intent of the previous two phases through our system implementation. Software implementation at RCS employs state-of-the-practice, object-oriented software engineering methods, e.g., OMT, UML, Use Case, and Agile using principles of SEI CMM Level 3 processes. RCS Software Engineers are particularly skilled in extending the available frameworks to achieve the intuitive, compelling user experience within the customer's installed environment.

Testing (ACSE-T)

RCS's Decision-Centered Testing is a major breakthrough in the evaluation of the decision-making effectiveness of the Joint Cognitive System. ACSE-T, a key phase of the ACSE℠ process, exploits the Analysis results to stress particularly challenging decisions or areas prone to decision-making error within the domain. This approach goes far beyond other traditional forms of system testing, such as usability and heuristic evaluations. Testing against the ACSE-A findings enables an evaluation of success or failure of the true decision support effectiveness.

These four core phases are supported by a variety of additional processes and techniques. For example, knowledge elicitation techniques provide work domain insights that are essential to the Analysis, Design, and Testing phases. Innovation techniques are critical to discovering the novel designs which form the heart of the revolutionary new decision support. As with the core phases, each of these supporting processes has been tailored to be part of the overall, integrated ACSE℠ process.

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