CMEWA Meeting in Chicago

By Greg Fabian,

During the week of September 28, 2015, representatives from the states and USEPA met at the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago. The purpose of the meeting was to review the Compliance, Monitoring, Enforcement, and Water System Assistance (or “CMEWA”) user stories, take another look at the screen mockups for these four business areas, and make any adjustments. These changes are documented in the CMEWA User Stories Document version 1.1 (available from the SDWIS SharePoint Document Library here).

Discussion in Chicago also focused on different approaches for creating schedules in SDWIS Prime. At its heart, SDWIS Prime is a scheduling system. For example, assistance actions, enforcement actions, sanitary surveys, and monitoring and sampling all involve some form of scheduling. By identifying common features of scheduling, it could be possible to apply those features throughout SDWIS Prime, making the system more consistent across business areas. This has a number of benefits, such as faster development time, a more consistent look and feel from a user perspective, and, in the long run, lower maintenance costs because of reduced system complexity.

The group expressed that one of the difficulties of defining the scheduling approach is the current state of the mockups used to simulate these system features. Currently, our SDWIS Prime mockups consist of a large set of static screen diagrams and notes describing how each screen would work. This makes it difficult for most people (author included) to visualize how one would progress through a screen to accomplish a task. (You can view a list of screen mockups in the SDWIS SharePoint Library here.) This became more evident during a discussion the group had concerning a scheduling approach similar to that used in project management software, such as Microsoft Project. While it was relatively easy to show how this scheduling approach would work using flip charts, sharing this information in an understandable with stakeholders that were not in the meeting is another matter entirely.

To assist with visualizing how SDWIS Prime scheduling might work, the project team prepared a project change request to redo some of the mockups using a “high fidelity” prototyping, or “wire framing” tool. In this case, “high fidelity” doesn’t refer to a stereo system, but to a tool that can generate a simulation of the system that is very close to the operational system. Two examples of a high fidelity prototyping tool are JustinMind and iRise. The project team is working to explore the possibility of obtaining access to one of these tools so the team can build a prototype of SDWIS Prime scheduling and share it with the stakeholders. The goal is to have a solid set of scheduling features defined before SDWIS Prime development restarts (which will happen after CMDP goes live). We will keep you informed on the progress of the effort to obtain the “high fidelity” prototyping tool as we work through the process.

Before the meeting, there was some discussion about ideas for handling sanitary surveys and formal actions in SDWIS Prime. These approaches attempt to address some of the issues with data quality seen in the data warehouse. In addition, they could make SDWIS Prime more usable. However, if we decide to use the approaches described in the discussion board, we will have to change the screen mockups. Fortunately, it’s less time consuming and expensive to change a mockup than it is to modify a system that’s already built. We did receive some great comments about this approach, and would like to hear from you if you haven’t had a chance yet to comment. If the proposal to move to high fidelity prototyping is approved, some of the first of SDWIS Prime features that we would like to prototype are handling sanitary surveys and formal actions.