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Socio technical systems (LSCITS EngD)

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An introduction to socio-technical systems and the relationship between socio-technical systems and large-scale IT systems

An introduction to socio-technical systems and the relationship between socio-technical systems and large-scale IT systems

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  • Here – talk about the notion of unintended consequences. Give an example of such a thing.
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    • 1. LSCITS and Socio-technical Systems Prof Ian SommervilleSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 1
    • 2. Objectives • To introduce the notion of a socio-technical system and to discuss the relationships between LSCITSs and STSs. • To explain why socio-technical considerations should influence the design of an LSCITS • To introduce the notion of LSCITS engineering as a systems engineering process.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 2
    • 3. Socio-technical systems Organisational systems with automated and manual processes and components that evolve to meet organisational goals or requirementsSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 3
    • 4. Socio-technical systems • Socio-technical systems include IT systems and the social and organisational environment in which these systems are used – Operators – the people who use the system – Procedures and Processes – ways of working that use the IT system – Policies – rules and regulations that govern work and the way that it is done – Standards – definitions of how work should be done across the organisation – Culture – the ways in which work is done in a local, professional and national settingSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 4
    • 5. Socio-technical systems Social and political environment Laws, regulations, custom & practiceSystem Businessusers Software-intensive system processes Organisational policies and culture Organisational strategies and goalsSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 5
    • 6. Socio-technical system characteristics • They exhibit emergent properties – Some of the properties of the system emerge after it has gone into use and cannot be predicted in advance – This is true of all systems but is a particular characteristic of STS because of the complexity of the interactions between parts of the system • They are non-deterministic – They do not always produce the same output when presented with the same input (or input sequence) because the systems’s behaviour is partially dependent on human operators, organizational priorities, etc. • They are influenced by the organisations culture, rules and objectives – STS are inextricably bound up with the organisation using theseSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 6 sysyems, how it thinks of itself and how it works
    • 7. Emergent properties • Properties of the system as a whole rather than properties that can be derived from the properties of components of a system • Emergent properties are a consequence of the relationships between system components and between technical systems and the socio-technical system in which they are used • They can therefore only be assessed and measured once the components have been integrated into a system • Emergent properties often have unexpected consequences • Higher rather than lower costs • More rather than less manual interventionSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 7
    • 8. Types of emergent property• Functional properties – These are the designer’s intention and appear when all the parts of a system have been integrated. • A burglar alarm system has the property of detecting intruders in a building.• Non-functional emergent properties – These relate to the behaviour of the system in its operational environment. • Examples are reliability, performance, safety, and security.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 8
    • 9. Organisational emergent properties • These relate to the relationships between technical systems and the socio-technical system in which they are embedded or to the relationships between a socio-technical system and other socio-technical systems in an organisation – An accounting system that provides better information on accounts to budget holders may lead to increases in expenditure because they now have information about under- spending on a budget – A (socio-technical) system that is intended to provide the public with information about death rates in hospitals leads to increases in the number of patients who are discharged early and die at homeSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 9
    • 10. Non-determinism • Non-determinism (in a systems context) means that the response of a system to a stimulus will not always be consistent • STS are non-deterministic because: – People are not inter-changeable. One system user will behave in a different way from another. They react differently because of personal circumstances, workload, etc. – People react to changes in the environment in which the system is used. The organisational and operational environments constantly change and affect the use of the system and its responses.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 10
    • 11. Coping with the unexpected • Technical systems are rigid and are usually unable to cope with circumstances that have not been envisaged by their designers • The non-determinism in STS is (usually) a positive characteristic as it allows the system to cope with unexpected change – It allows graceful degradation of service in times of increased workload – People can prioritise tasks according to their perceived importance – The processes in the system can be dynamically adapted to cope with organisational or external changesSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 11
    • 12. LSCITS and Socio-technical systems The relationships between LSCITS and STSSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 12
    • 13. STS and LSCITS • I find it helpful to distinguish between an LSCITS and a STS, with the important distinction being that LSCITS are designed and socio-technical systems evolve. • However, not all STS include LSCITS – STS do not have to be large-scale systems. However, all LSCITS are tightly embedded in STS. • Socio-technical issues have a profound effect on the dependability, efficiency and effectiveness of the embedded LSCITSs • There is an increasing conviction that focusing on socio- technical issues in complex systems and understanding how to use these constructively in system design (LSCITS engineering) will provide a better return in terms of system improvement than investments in new technologySocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 13
    • 14. Organisations/people/systems • LSCITS are organisational systems intended to help deliver some organisational or business goal. • If you do not understand the organisational environment where a system is used, the LSCITS is less likely to meet the real needs of the business and its users.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 14
    • 15. Value from socio-technical analysis• Effectiveness – Deployed systems are more effective in supporting business processes – In many cases, value from new systems is not realised because these are not used at all or part of their functionality is not exploited• Dependability – Reduced probability of usage errors – More effective error recovery• User satisfaction – Better user acceptance of new systems• Faster ‘time to value’ – Shorter assimiliation period for new systems. Fewer mismatches between system and workSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 15
    • 16. Issues and questions • Process changes – Does the system require changes to the work processes in the environment? • Job changes – Does the system de-skill the users in an environment or cause them to change the way they work? • Organisational changes – Does the system change the political power structure in an organisation?Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 16
    • 17. LSCITS processes Organisational Environment LSCITSSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 17
    • 18. Organisational processes • The processes of systems engineering overlap and interact with organisational procurement processes. • Operational processes are the processes involved in using the system for its intended purpose. For new systems, these have to be defined as part of the system design. • Operational processes should be designed to be flexible and should not force operations to be done in a particular way. It is important that human operators can use their initiative if problems arise.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 18
    • 19. Procurement • Acquiring a system for an organization to meet some perceived need • Some system specification and architectural design is usually necessary before procurement – You need a specification to let a contract for system development – The specification may allow you to buy a commercial off-the- shelf (COTS) system. Almost always cheaper than developing a system from scratch • LSCITS usually consist of a mix of off the shelf and specially designed systems. The procurement processes for these different types of system are usually different.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 19
    • 20. Procurement issues • The choice of what system to buy is a socio-technical rather than simply a technical decision – Centralisation vs autonomy – Compliance – Response to external circumstances – Organisational authority structure • Requirements may have to be modified to match the capabilities of off-the-shelf components. • There is usually a contract negotiation period to agree changes after the contractor to build a system has been selected. During this process, significant changes to the requirements may be negotiatedSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 20
    • 21. LSCITS engineering • Specifying, designing, implementing, validating, deplo ying and maintaining large-scale complex IT systems. • Concerned with the services provided by the system, constraints on its construction and operation and the ways in which it is used. • LSCITS engineering is a systems rather than a software engineering process • LSCITS engineering is particularly concerned with the early stages of the systems engineering process – requirements engineering and architectural designSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 21
    • 22. Engineering issues • LSCITS engineering takes place in a ‘systems rich’ environment and the LSCITS being developed may include, make use of and co-exist with a range of systems. • Owners and users of these systems have vested interests that may be challenged by the requirements and operation of the new system – For example, to make a new system work, existing systems may have to be changed. This may be resisted because these changes pose risks for existing system use and may require additional work – System requirements may be influenced by existing organisational structures, division of labour and power andSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 22 authority structures.
    • 23. Development processes • LSCITS engineering processes are not rational, technical processes but are deeply influenced by socio-technical considerations • Often LSCITS development involves several organisations and different disciplines • Development teams are influenced by local organisational priorities, cultures, practice and vocabulary • Different disciplines may attempt to influence design decisions to increase their overall influence on the system •Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Within an organisation, engineering is profoundly Slide 23
    • 24. Operational processes • Operational processes are those processes that reflect the use of the LSCITS • They are a subset of wider business processes which are processes developed to achieve some broader business or organisational goal • As LSCITS are usually developed to support a range of stakeholders/business processes then there is inevitably – Diversity in operational processes depending on the background, culture and objectives of the system users – Process dynamism as the context of use of the system evolves, users gain experience and system requirementsSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 24 change.
    • 25. Operational issues • The influence of the system on the ways that work is done – Systems may profoundly change work practices that have evolved over many years. These systems may therefore, sometimes with good reason, be rejected by users • The use of the system by different classes of operator – Different classes of operator may use the system in different ways and so may respond differently to proposed system changes – The organisational influence of one group may dominate system design decisions • The ability of the system to cope with unexpected circumstancesSocio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 25
    • 26. Key points • LSCITS are tightly integrated with socio-technical systems • Socio-technical systems are systems whose boundaries include the business processes that these systems are intended to support and the system operators. They are influenced by a wide range of regulatory, cultural and organisational factors. • To develop LSCITS, we should extend traditional systems engineering with socio-technical analyses to consider how organisational factors should influence the overall STS design • Socio-technical issues affect all LSCITS processes – procurement, development and operation.Socio-Technical Systems, York EngD Programme, 2012 Slide 26