Soft System Methodology
Soft System Methodology can be described as a 7-step process aimed to help provide a solution to real life problematic situation caused by two different perceptions by implementing defensible and sensible models for comparison with the situation in real life in order to assist in making decisions or recommendations as to the solution or response for the problem.
Those models are referred to as Conceptual models, those models logically represent what steps needs to be undertaken, in order to achieve desired effect stated in root definitions which are created based on the roles, norms and values taken from the identified problem. In another words conceptual models are models that show what a good standard looks like as to compare it with the real life situation to see what needs to be done to achieve that good quality standard. (Burge 1-14)
A Law firm by the name of “Crane, Poole and Schmidt” is a professional law company with 15 years of experience; their reputation is well known as one of the law firms with unbeatable and compassionate lawyers.Â In order to keep on top of the competitors, the company’s IT department requires upgrading their infrastructure to be more efficient and reliable for research and documents to be exchanged. However the company is limited in the amount of money they can spend on the upgrade and cloud computing alternatives are not cheap.
In order to develop accurate conceptual models for comparison of different possible solutions to the situation, first the problem has to be identified by recognizing the roles, norms and values for the people involved within the problem.
In case of “Crane, Poole and Schmidt” the IT department wants to upgrade their infrastructure in order to benefit from the could-computing increasing the company efficiency, productivity and income. As “Crane, Poole and Schmidt” would be the first company to adopt could-computing technologies, that would give them a significant advantage and more modern approach over competitor companies.
The first step is to identify the roles; those roles are social positions being involved within the problem. Those roles are categorized by expected norms or behaviors in it, which is judged by the local values or standards that the person within the position of the role needs to achieve and accomplish. (Checkland 13-328)
The role of the Board of directors & CEO is to manage the firm as well as conclude board meetings in case of larger scale decisions such as upgrade of the IT infrastructure within the Company. They are also responsible for any major contractors and partner companies, as well as conducting and applying new strategies to be ahead of the competitors in their profession. This board is also responsible for granting permissions to any larger scale projects within the company, as well as allowing the required/allocated budget and resources.
The standard norms that Board of directors with the CEO should perform include:
- To carefully analyze the need for a change or the upgrade or the company
- Monitor financial aspects and act accordingly to the company’s best interest
- Make informed decisions within the best interest of the company
- Allocate appropriate budget for the projects
- Make correct decisions for approval and disapproval, when it comes to projects within the company, strategies used to stay on top of the competitors and/or choice of partners with the firm
The system analyst is responsible for analyzing the current system and its implications, and what could be done to improve it. System analyst will analyze the current system, then design and implement new IT infrastructure. This role is very vital for the upgrade of the IT infrastructure because system analyst will design and implement upgraded IT infrastructure, including both software and hardware requirements.
A system analyst has certain norms that his role requires to perform, these norms include:
- Study the current infrastructure to identify its strong and weak points
- Design a new infrastructure with necessary hardware and software requirements
- Implement and test new infrastructure and report back to the IT Department Administrator
As for the values which the role is expected to achieve, are as follows:
- Managing the upgrade within the deadline
- Managing the upgrade within a given budget
- Reviewing the progress of the implementation
- Determine possible options for the upgrade, including hardware and software requirements.
- Communication with the IT department and third-party online cloud based solutions.
The administrator of the IT department (henceforth ‘admin’) is a crucial role to a company; because the administration department is responsible for smooth flow of information between different departments within the company.
The role of administrator of any department comes with specific responsibilities which need to be fulfilled. In this case: managing the IT department, any projects that incorporate the IT department, manage the performance of department and its impact on the company, as well as managing the approved budget for the department and IT infrastructure of the company. (Mishra)
With the role of an admin of a department there are specific norms that the role should exhibit, these involve:
- To be able to improve employees capability to manage and organize the workplace in professional and effective manner
- Advance a suitable assets management approach
- Advance a suitable workplace management approach
- Capable of creating administrative procedures
- Capable of planning and controlling given budget for the department
A role of administrator also requires specific values to be achieved by occupant of that role. As for the occupant of the role these values are what the occupant is judged on.
- The occupant needs to be able to manage and plan budget well for the department
- Admin also is required to manage the department to ensure professional and efficient working standard
- Admin is also required to ensure the IT infrastructure of the firm is working without any complications
The role of a financial manager is to be responsible for financial condition of the company; their job involves data analysis and advising senior managers on different strategies for maximizing the company profit. The financial manager will be responsible for calculating the budget for the upgrade of the IT infrastructure; they will calculate costs for upgrade of the infrastructure but also the estimated savings achieved by this upgrade. (Derweesh, Schnitzer and Stettin)
The standards that the financial manager must achieve in his performance are as follows:
- Organize business motion reports and financial statements
- Ensure legal requirements are achieved by observing over the financial details
- Assist the management in financial judgments
- Analyze company financial records and position and seek a new strategies for cost reduction
- Perform analysis of the market to spot potential possibilities for increase of the company and obtaining new companies
A role of financial manager is not easy and often requires working in-collaboration with executives group, CEO’s and administrative boards. This role is assessed by certain values which include:
- Financial condition of the firm
- Net income of the company
- Costs and Cost reduction strategies
- Making sure that all of the legal requirements are met for any transaction performed by the company.
The end-user group is a role in which the employees of the firm, is a role that is important where each employee is doing their designated tasks in order to improve the growth, efficiency and functionality of the firm. Those employees are using the company’s IT infrastructure on daily basis changing it will also have a specific impact on those end-users.
Norms that belong to end-user role are:
- Performing their part in the company and professionally and efficiently deal with the tasks assigned
- Be responsible for customer data safety and integrity
- Use the company IT services for work on daily basis
The values which this role should exhibit are:
- Perform the job/task professionally, ethically, lawfully and efficiently
- Work with customers and their data
- Always represent company in a good name
- Do not use company’s IT services for reasons not associated with work
Another role involved with this upgrade is third-party cloud companies,Â which will be used in the upgrade of the infrastructure. Those companies occupy a role where they are responsible for providing cloud-based service to the company and all of its employees, as well as ensuring the safety of the firm and customer data.
The norms that this role should exhibit are as follows:
- 99.9% uptime of the servers and the service
- Good data security
- Good customer support
- Variable price range and different package options
- Good back-up and disaster recovery planning
This role also has its values which need to be achieved in order to be recognized as a professional company and service in the industry. Those values are what the companies providing the service are judged on, these include:
- Uptime of the servers providing the service
- Amount of security breaches the company has had
- Techniques for security of the data
- Price being comparable to the competitors
- Quality of the customer support
- Quality of the service
The root definitions are used to logically figure out what steps the company will need to undertake, to achieve the desired outcome of the definition. The root definition comes from CATWOE analysis which consists of six stages, including; client, actors, transformation, world view, owner and environment. (Simonsen 1-18), (Williams 1-20)
As the receiving party, client in this scenario are the end-users of the system (employees using the current IT infrastructure), the main issue that the client has is that they are comfortable with the current IT infrastructure and they do not want any changes, additionally the end-users are not happy that they have to go through additional training to get used to new system while dealing with the customers.
Even though the clients like the idea of a cloud based infrastructure, they are afraid about their ability to perform their tasks on a new system, thinking that the company will increase its profits while the employees will have to work with new and unfamiliar infrastructure.
The actors are the roles which will perform the Transformation (T), people involved in the upgrade of the IT infrastructure are the board of directors and CEO’s, IT department admin, financial manager and system analyst. The impact which they will experience is additional work for most of the sides, as well as additional costs to higher system analyst and the budget for the upgrade.
The final decision is going to be made by the board of directors and CEO’s whether the upgrade is possible/ required or neither. The actors which work in the company may not be happy about additional costs and work, however they know the reason for this upgrade is to constantly stand out above the competitors, at the same time they see benefits for the work flow within the company.
The process of transformation in this case is the process of taking inputs which are the opinions of the employees as to see what they think about the cloud based infrastructure and transforming that into the system requirements for the end-users. As well as taking current IT system hardware and software resources and transforming them into an extra budget for the upgrade, what resources are needed and which can be sold that decision will be made by the IT department administrator. The overall budget will be allocated by the board of directors and CEO’s influenced by the opinion from the financial manager.
In order for the transformation to be successful certain steps need to be undertaken. First step would be for the CEO’s to decide whether the upgrade is required or not, after which they would consult with the financial manager which could calculate estimated budget available for the upgrade. The approval for the upgrade along with the budget would be given to the admin of the IT department which then will be required to employ system analyst who will handle the upgrade within the estimated budget, and they will be responsible for finding system requirements by obtaining opinion from the end-users. System analyst will also be required to deal with 3rd party cloud service providers. (Simonsen 1-18)
The output from this transformation will be increased working efficiency as the end-users will be able to perform some of the tasks in the comfort of their own home; additionally the reduction in hardware will increase company income as well as reduction in the personnel due to surplus to requirements will increase the company savings. The admin of the IT department will then develop a training program for the end-users.
The upgrade of the IT infrastructure is necessary for the company to stand out above the competitor in the industry, overall increasing the company productivity and profits. In a greater scheme of things, law firms are very strict about their working ethics and are not keen for any big changes as this could have an impact not only on the working efficiency of the employees but also on the customers which put trust into the company.
As technology progresses increasing the benefits for many businesses, law firms also need to adapt to stay within the market and be viable to the target audience. In the bigger picture companies with a fast and reliable IT system can process and handle more customers at once increasing the profit, however as law firms are recognized as very respectful companies any mistakes made can have a dramatic impact on the customer basis and their trust.
The wider impact of the solution is to not only increase company profit by upgrading to cloud but also to reduce hardware resources in effect becoming more eco-friendly, allowing the employees to work from home by connecting to cloud services as a result increasing the area of work to work with more customers, aside from cost and staff reduction the company will be noticeable as more modern with the same professional and ethical approach which will increase its popularity with the industry.
The owner which is responsible for the upgrade and the IT system is the admin of the IT department, however the main owner are the CEO’s of the firm, ultimately every bigger decision goes through them and they decide what to do as they give out the permission for the process and the budget.
The owner is limited in the amount of assistance they can provide due to dealing with other projects, contracts and competitors, they can provide the permission for the upgrade and the budget but the rest of decision making and responsibility lies with the admin of the IT department.
If the main owner would be constantly changing their mind on the allocated budget or the admin of the IT department would not be able to implement and manage the new system that could get in the way. However with a good level of communication with the CEO’s is kept and all the benefits along with the design of the new system would be presented to them, that could potentially lead the owner to help out even more by for example making the budget more flexible.
When it comes to changes within the system and how to company operates there are environmental constraints that need to be fellfield, these can range from simple in company rules/ guidelines to legislations and regulations necessary for the company lawful functionality.
There are current laws and regulations which the company has to follow such as Data Protection Act 1998, Legal Services Act 2007, the Health and Safety Act 1974 and Companies Act 2006. All of those regulations and legislations are in place as the firm is responsible for protecting and promoting the public interest.
Aside from the laws and regulations already in place, in order to perform transformation processes there are environmental aspects to take into consideration when picking partners which will provide the service. As the law firms deals with not only the company data but also customer data, when performing the upgrade the service provides should ensure the full Safe Harbour agreement if any or all information would be stored outside the EEA.
The service provider also should ensure that the communication between the employees that are working on the move is secured, as well as the provider should ensure 24h access to the service. Additionally the service should have compliance with ISO 20071 and must include requirements of the SRA Code of Conduct.
A system administered by the admin of the IT department owned by CEO’s “Crane, Poole and Schmidt”, requires upgrade due to the system being slow and not secure. Upgrading to cloud based alternatives would sort out the matter of security as well as storage. By upgrading to cloud computing as a result there will be a reduction of human resources in the office allowing the end-users to travel to client locations increasing in company productivity, reputation and services. Because of the transformation certain new legislations and policy comes into place, not only keeping the use of service for professional and ethical reasons, ensuring data integrity by following Data Protection Act 1998 and ensure that no end-user will breach regulations such as Computer Misuse Act 1990.
By moving into the cloud computing some new challenges could be created where some of the customer basis could have a doubt about their private data being stored somewhere in an unknown location. Using the service providers that are based only within the EEA is a must as it ensures data protection laws additionally the service provider should ideally also follow SRA Code of Conduct.
However another way to ease those in doubt would be to implement a hybrid system where some of the data is stored locally and some of the data is stored on secure servers in the cloud. Also the use of encryption software to automatically encrypt company documents and customer data would put additional level of security in place.
As a client in this case customers are the main recipients of the benefit from the upgrade of the infrastructure as they will be able appointments done not only in the office but also over the internet and in the comfort of their own home. The employees will be able to carry their data and files with them to the customer location and present all the information there by accessing the company data, stored on a secure server in the cloud.
As for the people performing the transformation, actors include the main directors and CEO’s which will be able to approve and provide the budget for the upgrade, financial manager will assist CEO’s in budget allocation and admin of the IT department with budget management. The admin will be responsible for management of the upgrade and training for the end-users, he will also employ a system analyst for advice and guidance during the upgrade.
Transformation is focused on reduction of the redundant resources and implementing a cloud-based infrastructure which will be used by end-users to do the honors for the customers, increasing the employee productivity, company income and customer satisfaction. The entities responsible for the upgrade are the admin of the IT department with the assistance of system analyst and financial manager. Another important factor of the transformation is the review of the performance and income to be able to take improvement action to constantly improve.
A good and well respected company in the industry always has to take into consideration their impact and opinion on society, target audience, customers and other parties. Cloud computing is a new technology that grows rapidly, enabling companies to be more flexible in their line of work and benefiting customers by delivering the service to them, additionally reduction in hardware resources will also make the company more eco-friendly.
The real owner of this project is the board of directors & CEO’s as they make the main and final decisions for the well health being of the company, they are also the entity that has the complete control over the budget designated for the upgrade. By providing sufficient budget and approval for the upgrade the owner assists the actors and improves company reputation, income and efficiency.
As for the environment variable which affect the impacts the upgrade and the company are law legislations, guidelines and regulations which the company has to ensure in order to develop and maintain professional trust with the customers and partners. These legislations would include Data Protection Act 1998, Health and Safety Act 1974 and Legal Services Act 2007. Additionally the company should ensure that the service providers will follow appropriate laws and regulations, such as SRA Code of Conduct (Solicitor’s Regulation Authority) and ISO 2007/1 guidelines.
A system owned by the law firm “Crane, Poole and Schmidt”, which is under the supervision of the administrator of the IT department serves the end-users which deal with customers on daily basis increasing the company reputation and income. The upgrade of the system is necessary to increase the company productivity and efficiency, by expanding to cloud computing the firm and its employees can work from anywhere at any given time increases the customer base and enhancing the company’s productivity and efficiency. As dealing with customer data is crucial for the company functionality, data integrity has to be kept and all of the legislations and regulations to do with the business and customer relations and data have to be followed. (Williams 1-20), (Burge 1-14)
(Williams 1-20), (Checkland 13-328)
- Burge, Stuart. An Overview Of The Soft Systems Methodology. 1st ed. Burge Hughes Walsh, 2015. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
- Checkland, Peter. Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. 1st ed. Chichester: Wiley, 2002. Print.
- Derweesh, Zayd, Tom Schnitzer, and Jessie Stettin. “The Role Of Financial Managers”. Boundless. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.
- Mishra, Pankaj. “Effective Role Of Administration In An Organization”. linkedin.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
- Simonsen, Jesper. Soft Systems Methodology. 1st ed. semanticscholar, 1994. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.
- Williams, Bob. Rich Pictures And CATWOE: Simple Yet Powerful Scope-Modelling Techniques. 1st ed. bobwilliams, 2005. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.