Pattern: Artifact as an audit trail

Essence of the Pattern: This pattern is concerned with the way in which an artefact can serve as a stratified record of work. It focuses on how amendments and attachments to the artefact, such as comments, date stamps, post-it notes, other documents and so forth, are accountable to the personnel within a setting. These annotations are accountable in that they readily afford information to these competent members about the process through which the artefact has progressed in the workplace. Actors are able to recover the process through viewing the artefact, seeing who has carried out work, when and why using their local knowledge of the setting and work practices. In this way the artifact serves as a means of coordination between workers allowing them to locate who has done what work and therefore assisting in remedying problems and so forth.

Design For Dependability

Why Useful? The focus of the pattern is on how the artefact facilitates work within the setting, providing an enhanced accountable record of work promoting better coordination amongst the workers. This also promotes auditability of work and recoverability. For example in the event of a failure the annotations may provide valuable process information.

Where Used? For design it suggests the utility of such artefacts in tightly coordinated work across groups of workers, possibly carrying out different tasks in a process. This pattern has been documented in two settings so far where the focus is on paper based artefacts and their use by small co-located groups of workers within a single setting.

This pattern is illustrated with vignettes from the following field work:

Design Implications? For situations where an electronic replacement is sought it points to the need for maintaining the ability to retain details of individual work, allow attachments and comments and so forth. Where a paper version already exists it is important to capture the details of its current use. Novel artefacts need to be carefully constructed with flexibility allowing tagging practices to develop. In geographically distributed settings these features may be even more important and communication channels should be maintained between workers as is possible in single settings.