Information from a task analysis can then be used for many purposes, such as personnel selection and training, tool or equipment design, procedure design (e.g., design of checklists or decision support systems) and automation.
The term "task" is often used interchangeably with activity or process. Task analysis often results in a hierarchical representation of what steps it takes to perform a task for which there is a goal and for which there is some lowest-level "action" that is performed. Task analysis is often performed by human factors professionals.
Task analysis may be of manual tasks, such as bricklaying, and be analyzed as time and motion studies using concepts from industrial engineering. Cognitive task analysis is applied to modern work environments such as supervisory control where little physical works occurs, but the tasks are more related to situation assessment, decision making, and response planning and execution.
Task analysis is also used in education. It is a model that is applied to classroom tasks to discover which curriculum components are well matched to the capabilities of students with learning disabilities and which task modification might be necessary. It discovers which tasks a person hasn't mastered, and the information processing demands of tasks that are easy or problematic. In behavior modification, it is a breakdown of a complex behavioral sequence into steps. This often serves as the basis for Chaining.
According to the historian of technical communication, R. John Brockmann, this task orientation in technical documentation began with publishing guidelines issued by IBM in the late 1980s. Later IBM studies led to John Carroll's theory of minimalism in the 1990s.
With the development of XML as a markup language suitable for both print and online documentation (replacing SGML with its focus on print), IBM developed the Darwin Information Typing Architecture XML standard in 2000. Now an OASIS standard, DITA has a strong emphasis on task analysis. Its three basic information types are Task, Concept, and Reference. Tasks are analyzed into steps, with a main goal of identifying steps that are reusable in multiple tasks.
US Patent Issued to Fuji Xerox on Sept. 14 for "Task Analysis System, Task Analysis Device, Task Management Apparatus, Document Display, Computer Readable Medium, Method of Task Analysis, and Computer Data Signal" (Japanese Inventors)
Sep 15, 2010; ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 20 -- United States Patent no. 7,797,619, issued on Sept. 14, was assigned to Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd. (Tokyo)....