1 Decision Support & Executive Information Systems: Soft Systems Approach LECTURE 4 Amare Michael Desta
2 Origin of IS Project organisations exist and they operate people use information and they are part of IS use of information & ways of working change These changes may be large may involve many people & new technology may require careful though before hand & careful control during the change The main issues are therefore: in general organisations are a bit messy, opaque and inconsistent. can be perceived in terms of systems.
3 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) and the question is therefore: can we: build new IS systems & add technology to this messy situation in org. & expect good results? NO! is a popular answer. Computerise a mess and you get a bigger mess. First you must sort out the mess. YES! is a popular answer too. Success or even survival depends on the use of IT - the mess must be computerised – IS (a big part of) the solution.
4 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) What are we looking for anyway? No mess - a tidy rational organisation Less mess - removing elements of disorder that nobody will miss A better mess - new ways of doing things, but without tidying up too much More mess - more diversity/communications and more special cases?
5 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) Look at the following SEVEN Scenarios 1. Problems. "It is just not working right", "For the cost of 1 years maintenance we could have a new computer", " 50% of orders are taking more than 10 days to be processed" 2. Pressures. "We will have to...", "Under new EU regulations accounts must be produced for all national VAT numbers", " The competition will bury us if we don't do...". 3. Opportunities. "If we could....", "There is market opening for a high quality WAP enabled internet banking service
6 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) 4. User needs. "What I want is a....", "The clerks all agree that they need a better way of recording deposits." 5. Strategy and Planning. (IS Planning) "Company strategy is to...", "The company strategy calls for an autonomous regionally managed sales force." 6. Pure Acts of Faith. "We need a corporation wide integrated network for multimedia." 7. Accidents and Politics. "If we get this project under way then old Bill will be tied up for years!!!", "This project was Adams idea, but he left 6 months ago"
7 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) Such scenarios may triggers the starting point, BUT 1. Before we design a solution we must design a problem 2. There is the danger though that we design a problem that we like, or that we think will be easy to solve. The operation was a success, but the patient died. A solution: One solution is given by Peter Checkland's SSM [Checkland 1981 & 1990. Chapters 6,7,8 of the 1981, and chapter 1 and 2 of the 1990 book
8 Origin of IS Project (Contd….) The basis is systems thinking applied, in particular, to human activity systems. S is a system (a human activity system) s -> purpose or mission s -> measure of performance s -> decision taking process s -> components that are themselves s -> has a boundary s -> has resources physical and abstract at disposal of decision takers See SOFT Systems ideas (Checkland 1981)
9 Why Soft? to distinguish it from the established traditions of systems engineering and systems analysis to show that it is concerned with finding and framing problems, as much as with solving them to emphasis that the idea of a system is used to provide a tool for thought about the world (human activity systems). The world is not made up of a neat arrangement of such systems, but it can be perceived in terms of systems.
10 Why soft? (Contd…) to express the notion of a social process in contrast to a technical one. SSM provides a type of structured debate about change with many interests represented just as the problems it addresses are soft, so too is SSM itself. It is not prescriptive, but a "set of principles of method which in any particular situation have to be reduced to a method uniquely suitable to that particular situation"
11 FINDING OUT Checkland Methodology (1979/89) The problem situation unstructured 1 Action to solve the problem or improve the situation 7 The problem situation: expressed 2 Comparison of 4 with 2 5 Definition of feasible desirable changes 6 Root definitions of relevant systems 3 Conceptual model 4 TAKING ACTION SYSTEMS THINKING REAL WORLD SYSTEMS THINKING ABOUT THE REAL WORLD
12 SSM - TWO Strands of inquiry 1)Logical-driven stream of enquiry Considers models of human activity systems and a comparison of these models is made with an examination of our views of the real world and the ensuring debate concerns change (see previous slide). 2)Cultural stream of enquiry a) Intervention : any situation involving human beings is changed immediately it is studied, and continuing attention must be given to the roles which individuals may play, expectations of the studys outcomes & how the study will be carried out
13 SSM - TWO Strands of inquiry (Contd..) b) Situation as a social system: need to have some grasp of the informal as well as the formal social process that are operating. c) Situation as a political system: need to be alert to questions of power, authority and influence, the way in which these are exercised and how they may aid or hinder the study
14 SSM APPROACH Draw a Rich Picture Extract problem themes Name relevant systems ( to relieve problem situation) Decide on Root Definition Using (CATWOE) Client (beneficiary or victim) Actor (who makes things happen) Transformation World View (Weltanschauung (objective(s)) Owner (sponsor) Environment Construct a conceptual model of the key activities involved in the root definition Compare conceptual model with rich picture Discuss differences with the problem owner
15 SSM APPROACH (Contd…..) The idea is to agree a statement with the USER (USER) along the lines of.. "Who ( ACTOR ) is doing what (TRANSFORMATION) for whom ( CLIENT ), to whom they are answerable ( OWNER ), what assumptions or 'world view' (WELTANSCHAUUNG) are being made, and in what context ( ENVIRONEMNT ) this is being done."
17 RICH PICTURE CONSTRUCTION Draw a large bubble at the centre of the page to represent the problem situation. Using real world icon, sketch people and things that inter- relate within and outside the problem situation. Include arrows to show the relationships. Problem Situation
18 RICH PICTURE CONSTRUCTION (Contd…) Use crossed-swords (scissors) to indicate conflict. Use think bubbles to indicate the worries of the major characters. May not be possible to represent the problem situation in one rich picture (show detail on separate sheets). Size of the real world icons can be used to show the perceived relative importance of people and things. worries
19 RICH PICTURE AUTOMATION OF A UNIVERSITYS ACCOMMODATION OFFICE
20 Building Conceptual Model Rich Pictures Define Systems Create New Ideas System Definitions Describe the situation
22 Understanding the Rich Picture -is more than just a context diagram. It represents the 'organisation' in all its technical and social complexity -symbols are meant to represent 'people' and 'things' that interrelate with or within the org. process/structure) -arrows have a loosely defined meaning, showing the existence of a 'relationship'.
23 Understanding the Rich Picture (Contd…) -it is a 'picture', include what you like! Symbols, pictures, comment bubbles, anything to aid understanding of the organisation. -the intention is to provide a concise model of the org. as an aid to understand further modelling & to show up areas of worry, conflict etc…. - essential uses are to reveal PRIMARY TASKS (Ask yourself 'What is really central to the problem which this information system will need to solve) and ISSUES (topics of concern or dispute, the question marks hanging over the whole system).
24 SUMMARY Soft Systems approach Helps people to visualise and discuss their own role in the problem situation. Can be used to define the aspects of the problem situation which are intended to be covered by any IS Can be used to show up the worries of individuals, potential conflicts and political issues.
25 Next week: -further Examples of SSM -individual task spec. to be given out