In our mobile app, I have 2 separate user contexts.
The search context, the user wants to search and find, or create people on an adhoc basis.
The WIP context, the user has to complete a unit of work. Within this context they might need to switch to the search context to go find/create a person.
Currently we are switching from one context to the other in order to complete a unit of work e.g. the user will do some work (context 2) then realise they need to find a person - we switch to the searching context (1), the user then find/creates the person - and has to switch back (2).
It is valid that a user would want to complete the searching context on its own.
I think we are struggling to model this.
Ours users are saying that its complicated - "there are too many steps".
Is there an alternative?
Should we try to embed the searching context inside the WIP context?
Try using a modal for the search and find or create activities within the primary use case, which according to the brief description you provided is the WIP context.
So I assume that a good approach would be to:
A user enters the application in order to complete that unit.
The unit can either be split in a multi-step form or can include modals for key actions that would not require them to leave their current step e.g. 2 buttons: Search for a contact | Create new contact
Clicking on any of the two opens up a modal to allow users to complete the respective action and return easily in their WIP context
Note: The modal can support quite complex interactions such as complex search criteria, pagination, etc. but make sure that the users have an easy way of selecting and returning to their WIP screen.