There has been a significant loss of spatial thinking support in the move from paper to computer-based work. Map-based software methods reported here fill this gap while resolving general challenges in deploying software tools into active industrial practice.
The Decision Rationale editor (DRed) has been in use over nine years and 700 engineers have been trained within the partner company. Semi-structured interviews were performed with 13 engineers from diverse departments and with a range of experience levels. Collected examples were analysed for successful methods (what), common contexts of use (where) and advantages over existing tools (why).
Map use seems to focus on problems where multiple poorly defined options need sorting in order to progress work. The diversity of use cases demonstrates a need for increased investment in flexible visual tools to aid human thinking. Future work will expand on the set of collected examples, including attempts to generalize lessons to other software. More detailed experiments are also needed to better understand specific cognitive benefits in the work environment.