Designing Process Guidance Systems

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Stefan Morana


Process knowledge is a vital prerequisite for employees to execute organizational processes successfully in the course of their daily work. However, the lack of process knowledge, especially of novice users, and the need for support pose a challenge to employers. Inspired by research on spatial knowledge and navigation, we conceptualize three process knowledge types addressing the needs of employees during their process execution. On the basis of these process knowledge types and decision support and guidance research, we derive three theoretically grounded design principles for process guidance systems to support employees’ process execution. We instantiate the design principles and evaluate the resulting artifacts in a focus group study, a laboratory experiment, and in a field study. The results demonstrate the positive effects of process guidance systems on users’ process knowledge and process execution performance. Our study contributes to research and practice by proposing a new conceptualization of process knowledge and a nascent design theory for process guidance systems that builds on theories of spatial knowledge and navigation, as well as decision support research.

Design Canvas

Justificationary Knowledge

The design is grounded in two research streams: decision support research with the concept guidance, explanations, and decision aids as well as research on spatial and navigation theories.


Process knowledge is a vital prerequisite for employees to execute organizational processes successfully in the course of their daily work. However, the lack of process knowledge, especially of novice users, and the need for support pose a challenge to employers


Design an IT-based solution to support employees with the required process knowledge in order to increase their process execution performance and their process knowledge.


Develop an IT-based artifact that provides the required process knowledge for the current process context, integrated into the current working context of the employee.


The process guidance proposed in this research project focuses on rather structured processed that have some form of specification that can be used to derive process guidance. Furthermore, the proposed process guidance focuses on supporting an individual user at a time, rather than a group of users at the same time.

Design Process

The research project follows the suggestions by Kuechler and Vaishnavi (2008) and is divided into three consecutive design cycles.


Each design cycle comprises an evaluation episode following the suggestions by Kuechler & Vaishnavi (2008). In the first design cycle, a qualitative focus group workshop was performed. The second design cycle includes a quantitative laboratory experiment. The third design cycle includes a qualitative focus group and interview study as well as a quantitative survey-based field study.


For each design cycle, a dedicated process guidance artifact was developed with a varying degree of maturity. The first artifact was a prototype that illustrates the concept and the second artifact included process guidance for the experiment’s process. The third and final artifact was a fully functional prototype used for the case company’s IT ticketing processes.

Design Knowledge

The research project developed comprehensive design knowledge in the form of eleven meta-requirements and three theory-grounded design principles. Moreover, the design decisions based on the design principles in the form of the instantiated artifacts can help researchers and practitioners to develop their own process guidance systems.

Iteration 1
Awareness of Problem
Expert Interviews

We explored issues related to process knowledge and process execution by conducting a series of expert interviews with open questions. In total eight employees of the case company were interviewed. The expert interviews revealed that the employees experience difficulties in properly executing processes due to a lack of process knowledge. In particular, one of the interviewees requested some “guidance, claiming the system which needs to be used in a particular business process step”.

  • Expert Interviews
Systematic Literature Review

The systematic literature review serves to identify existing research on decision support and guidance research addressing the three concepts guidance, explanations, and decision aids. Based on the findings, a taxonomy of guidance design features is derived and research gaps discussed.

  • Literature Review
Synthesis of design principles based on empirical findings

Derived ten meta-requirements based on existing desicion support and guidance research. The meta-requirements inform three design principles.

Instantiation of design principles as a prototype

We instantiated the design in the form of an artifact for the case company’s procurement department that focuses on structured, document-centric business processes specified by the department.

Qualitative evaluation of the artifact (focus group)

We performed two focus group workshops with employees of the case company to evaluate the instantiated prototype.

  • Focus Group
Focus group analysis

The workshops’ positive results show that the proposed and instantiated functionalities described in the DPs have some validity, which indicates the usefulness of the PGS artifact . Moreover, we found the need for a further meta-requirement.

Iteration 2
  • Meeting
  • Kickoff
Awareness of Problem
Further reading on spatial and navigational theory
Adaption of design principles with additional theory
Instantiation of adapted design principles as updated prototype
Quantitative evaluation of the artifact (laboratory experiment)
Experiment analysis and hypotheses supported
Iteration 3
  • Meeting
  • Kickoff
Awareness of Problem
Adaption of research model
Implementation of design principles as software artifact
Quantitative evaluation of the artifact (longitudinal field study)
Evaluation analysis, hypotheses supported, and nascent design theory
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