The 7 Steps of Hierarchical Task Analysis: Part 6

We are almost done with our series of blog posts designed to teach you the basics of performing a Hierarchical Task Analysis.  You learned in our last post how to apply task analysis notation to your analysis.  In this post, we are going to focus on how to communicate the results of your analysis.

STEP 5: COMMUNICATE THE RESULTS OF THE ANALYSIS

There are several figures or tables that you can use to communicate the results of your analysis. We'll cover the most frequently used ones here.

LIST VIEW

In the early stages of an analysis, a simple list of tasks indented according to their place in the hierarchy will provide a quick means of capturing and displaying the information.  Be sure to clearly indicate sub-tasks with numbering and indentation to ensure the task structure is understood and include a description of the plan for groups of tasks and sub-tasks to communicate how tasks combine.

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TASK TABLE

The other most common form of representing tasks early in the analysis is done through forming  a task table by showing the properties associated with each task in columns to the right of the task descriptions. 

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TASK VIEW

Task view allows the analyst to collate all of the information about a task into a single place.

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Diagrams showing the task hierarchy may contain less detailed information than tables, but they make it easier for the reviewer to understand the various relationships between tasks. Tasks that are out of sequence stand out more easily, and this visual aid helps make task groupings and distribution of detail across the analysis more apparent.

LEFT TO RIGHT VIEW

The left-to-right view organizes levels in the hierarchy from left to right.  The highest level task is in the far left column and so on in a horizontal structure.

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TASK OVERVIEW

In task overview, tasks are organized so that the highest level of the hierarchy is on top with subsequent levels underneath in a vertical structure.

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VERTICAL SLICE

The vertical slice is a very useful view.  Once a task is selected, it only shows tasks that are ancestors or children of the task.  This is particularly useful when you have a large task hierarchy, and you want to focus on a specfic task in the hierarchy.

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TIMELINE ANALYSIS

Timelines are a common way to demonstrate how a sequence of tasks will be carried out.

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LINK ANALYSIS

Link analysis counts the interactions between properties in a series of tasks.  Any two properties can be selected, and the times that the two properties connect in a task is counted. 

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All of the figures here come from TaskArchitect.  Most programs currently used to capture the results of task analysis only show the results as either a text list or as a graphical tree. If these other programs do generate a graphical tree, the tree will need to be edited every time the list is changed. TaskArchitect allows you to flip between list, table, and diagram views with a single click, automatically incorporating any changes along the way.  Determining the appropriate representation of the information involves making decisions about what information is relevant to the decisions that need to be made and how to best provide this information. In this way, display of results merges into the usage of results. For instance, limiting the properties shown in a task table or showing only those tasks with particular property values focuses the representation on key findings.

CONCLUSION

In our next blog post, we will put together the results and figures of task analysis into a task analysis report.  This will be included in the next step in Hierarchical Task Analysis: communicating the results of your analysis.