The workshop dealt with two broad approaches for framing the issue of articulating the value of human factors. One approach is to make the case in general for the pervasive value of human factors research and applications. This approach is usually adopted when trying to assure support for human factors in general rather than for specific investments. The second approach focuses on the costs and benefits of specific projects. In a few cases, this can be done fairly quantitatively. However, in many other cases, costs and benefits are approached much more qualitatively. If strong arguments can be made for quantum qualitative changes, it may obviate any needs for quantification.
Some arguments are easier to make than others. Cost reduction and avoidance are easier to argue than revenue enhancement, because of inherent market uncertainties with the latter. Some cases are fraught with problems, such as safety, especially for large-consequence rare events, e.g., airplane crashes or nuclear power plant accidents. Although it is relatively straightforward to estimate the costs saved by avoiding such rare events, it is not so easy to estimate the specific contributions of human factors amid the wealth of factors that contribute to accidents that do not happen.
Beyond quantitative arguments if possible and qualitative arguments if necessary, another important ingredient in demonstrating the value of human factors is the credibility and track record of the profession. To this end, articulating the value after
the fact—which is far easier than making the case beforehand—is very important. Compelling success stories can provide the needed evidence, both in general and in particular: the former yields support for the field; the latter results in repeat customers due to past accomplishments.
Perhaps the most important aspect of articulating the value added by human factors is the realization that it needs to be done, combined with understanding alternative approaches. Such realization and understanding were evident among the speakers and most of the participants. Thus, many of the discussions in the workshop related to experiences of having successfully articulated the value of and promoted human factors. In this regard, the workshop participants paid less attention to frustrations with barriers and hindrances and more attention to assessing the basis of a wide variety of successes.