A four-year project undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of faculty and student researchers in the Jack & Stephanie Koraleski Commerce and Applied Behavioral Laboratory (CAB Lab) at the College of Business Administration (CBA) has simplified and improved the software used by Union Pacific Corporation in its revenue collection processes.
Since opening its doors to researchers and students in 2014, the Koraleski CAB Lab has provided researchers with the technologies to capture and analyze rich neuro-physiological data by combining eye-tracking, pupil dilation, facial expression, skin conductance (GSR) and electroencephalography (EEG). The lab also features a mobile component for use in field research. Funded by a gift from retired Union Pacific CEO and CBA graduate Jack Koraleski and his wife, Stephanie, the lab’s combination of technologies is rare among business schools.
The Union Pacific (UP) project began in September 2015. Researchers at UNO worked alongside UP personnel to redesign and restructure a legacy revenue collection software system and make it less complex for its users at UP.
Dr. Douglas Derrick, associate professor of IT Innovation at UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology (CIS&T), served as principal investigator on the project. "UP had a fairly complex system with dozens of users, hundreds of thousands of pieces of information and tens of thousands of bills being processed every month," Derrick said.
He said the project’s goals included providing a better user experience, making work easier to complete, standardizing business processes, and incorporating the new processes into the UP software system.
Eye-tracking and facial expression technologies yielded researchers the basic data for improving the processes, he said. "We could show the users particular screens and their eyes would objectively tell us what information they needed to see and what they consistently ignored," he said.
The neuro-psychological information told researchers many things about the screens and the processes that for the participants might have been difficult to articulate or even to realize, Derrick said.
"Over time, we were able to utilize the lab’s advanced technologies to objectively identify how information was being used, along with the order it was needed, and then consolidate it into a simpler system," he said. "We began with somewhere between 200 and 250 screens, and reduced that to 15."
CAB Lab studies supply important insights for researchers and the business community, while simultaneously providing students an opportunity to engage first-hand with research. In addition to Derrick, the lab’s core researchers are Associate Professors Dr. Ginamarie S. Ligon, Dr. Leif Willard Lundmark and Dr. Erin G. Pleggenkuhle-Miles, all Management, Business Administration.
"The CAB lab and CBA’s Center for Collaboration Science allow researchers from across the campus to work together on projects like this and others," Derrick said.
He said the UP project has resulted in a number of academic articles detailing the data collected regarding such aspects as the adoption of new processes, as well as human trust for computers and how that trust develops over time.
"It also gave more than a dozen CBA students the opportunity to work with Union Pacific personnel in a direct partnership that for some has led to internships and job opportunities," he said. "Through this project and another just beginning, we have been able to maintain a very productive, ongoing relationship with UP, and present those accomplishments as we meet with other companies about conducting research for them."