Complex activities in an operations center: a case study and model for engineering interaction

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Data operations and command centers are crucial for managing today's Internet-based economy. Despite advances in automation, the challenges placed on operations professionals continue to increase as they work individually or in teams to repair or proactively avoid service disruptions. Although there have been a few studies of collaborative work in military supervisory control centers, due to the sensitive nature of work in operating centers, there have been few studies on the activities that take place in commercial data centers. In this case study of a large, complex data operations and control center, activity theory is used to guide and interpret observations of individual and collaborative work. This resulted in a model of data operations activities, and the identification of tensions that arise within and between these activities. This model is of value to interaction engineers in the first phase of a user-centered engineering methodology. Using this model, we provide some recommendations for reducing some of the tensions we found, and discuss significant opportunities and challenges in this new domain for the HCI community.