Developing an intelligent family law IT system, working directly with primary users
I am a Computer Science graduate leading a project at the University of Brighton and Family Law Partners to develop a rule based decision support system to underpin a novel model of family law provision. This involves identifying areas in which automation can be utilised in their IT systems, and implementing intelligent solutions to make things more efficient.
I started my Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project approximately 9 months ago…
Sam Paul, Knowledge Systems Developer at Family Law Partners and the University of Brighton.
Getting to know the company and their IT requirements first-hand
My first few days in my role as a ‘Knowledge Systems Developer’ working on a project with a company called Family Law Partners (FLP) and the University of Brighton were an exciting whirlwind. On my first day I met the team supporting KTP projects at the university and they gave me a detailed introduction to the KTP programme and patiently answered all my questions. The next day I went to the law firm where I would be spending the next 2 years of my working life. Everyone was very welcoming, friendly and exuberant, not something I expected from a law firm! I soon started working on the project, I liked the way the project was structured – the first task was getting to know the business, and this is just what I did.
Finding my feet was an important first stage. I spoke the various solicitors, took notes on their activities and converted that information into requirements of the project. Based on those requirements, I created flowcharts and design documents which after getting reviewed by my supervisors, I sent out to the rest of the team at FLP. This was very useful because I was able to discuss my design directly with the people who would be the users of my application and not have to depend on second hand information. This also allowed me to understand the subtle nuances of their work and how my application could be customised to suit their individual requirements.
The work so far – prototyping and testing
After getting sign off on my design, I built a prototype of the application. This was a rewarding process for me because I was using a software platform I had never heard of, Mendix – it is low code rapid development platform – and unlike Java and C# it requires little coding to achieve the same level of complexity. I was able to achieve most of the objectives set out during the design phase.
Once it was complete, I demonstrated it to the entire team and invited them to test the application. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive but more importantly the testers were able to identify feature they would like to see later on and changes in the user interface that would help them use the application more effectively. I have worked in IT projects before joining the KTP programme and in all of those projects there were gaps in communication between the developers and the users because it was a middle man getting the information and interpreting it to others, but in the KTP programme I got the information directly from the source.
Why has KTP offered something different?
I have enjoyed being part of the KTP programme so far. The work is innovative, and I get to work closely with the users, something that does not often happen in the IT field. The free management training courses have been especially useful, I learnt about communication techniques that have enabled me to gather requirements better, I learnt several useful principles such as stakeholder maintenance, marketing and I have been able meet several other KTP Associates who are doing interesting work and I am sure the network of Associates will continue to be very useful to me in the future. Although I am a single IT professional within a team of solicitors I have fantastic support from my colleagues who are all 100% committed to the success of the project. My supervisor at the university offers ideas, support and feedback on my work, as well as helping me shape to solution to the complex challenges our project poses.
To anyone considering a KTP – I would 100% recommend it!
If you would like to find out more about becoming a KTP Associate, please click here.
If you would like to find out more about Family Law Partners’ experience on the KTP so far, please click here
If you would like to find out more about KTP at the University of Brighton, please click here.