Socio-technical systems engineering (LSCITS EngD 2012)

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Discusses issues in embedding socio-technical analysis in systems engineering processes.

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Socio-technical systems engineering (LSCITS EngD 2012)

  1. 1. Socio-technical systems engineering Ian SommervilleSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 1
  2. 2. Rationale • Socio-technical issues are now recognised by senior managers in industry as a major issue in systems design • There is a pressing need to take socio-technical issues into account when procuring, designing and configuring complex systems • However, methods of social analysis, such as ethnography, have not been widely adopted in industry – Lack of expertise. Requires understanding of both the social and the technical – Cultural factors. Engineers should focus on technical issuesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 2
  3. 3. Problems • Methods such as ethnography that rely on a situated specialist examining an organisation are hard to scale • Case studies of previous systems are retrospective analysis techniques • Little or no explicit support available for influencing the design of a system based on a social analysis of the work • Inter-disciplinary incompatibilities – Social science vs engineering perspectivesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 3
  4. 4. Socio-technical systems engineering • Embed socio-technical analysis into the engineering processes of procurement, specification, design and implementation of systems • The aim is for socio-technical analysis to be carried out by engineers and others involved in procurement and design, rather than specialists • Integrated with other systems engineering processes, taking technical issues into accountSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 4
  5. 5. STSE requirements • Practical methods of social analysis that return useful results in a reasonable time • Guidance for non-specialists on how to use these methods to study work • Integration with processes and methods used in systems engineering • An evaluation framework that demonstrates the value of socio-technical systems engineeringSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 5
  6. 6. Practical social analysis • Based on workplace studies • Informal ethnography • Action research / Co-realisation • Guided ethnography – Ethnographic viewpoints – Patterns of cooperative interactionSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 6
  7. 7. Informal ethnography • Observers simply go into the workplace and observe work as it is actually practised • Minimal previous training so low-cost of implementation • Reveals some of the most obvious issues of cooperative work and work practice • Problems of observer variation, inconsistent coverage, etc. • Suffers from same problems of scaleability • BUT – better than nothing!Socio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 7
  8. 8. Action research • A social science researcher is embedded in the development team and applies methods of socio- technical analysis as part of that team • The goal of the researcher is to communicate socio- technical issues to the team who then explicitly reflect on these and how they should influence the design • Problems of availability of specialists who can be action researchers and inter-disciplinary communicationsSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 8
  9. 9. Co-realisation • A technical specialist is trained in methods of social analysis and is embedded in a development team • They apply social analysis methods and translate the results directly into system design advice (and implementations where appropriate) • Avoids communication problems between social scientists and engineers • Problems of finding technical people sympathetic to this approach and scaleabilitySocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 9
  10. 10. Guided ethnography • A framework is used to guide engineers and managers in carrying out fieldwork • More likely to lead to repeatable results and better coverage than informal ethnography • Based around: – Ethnographic viewpoints – The use of modelling notations to supplement field notesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 10
  11. 11. Ethnography in requirements engineeringSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 11
  12. 12. Social viewpoints • Ways of looking at a fieldwork site with a view to understanding how the work is done – Distributed coordination • How do people coordinate their tasks as part of everyday work? – Plans and procedures • How are the objects in the workplace used and how is their use governed by organisational policies and rules? – Awareness of work • How are activities organised to make work visible?Socio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 12
  13. 13. Social concerns • Mechanisms to generate questions for each social viewpoint • Cross-cutting all viewpoints – Paperwork and computer work – Skill and the use of local knowledge – Spatial and temporal organisation – Organisational memorySocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 13
  14. 14. Concerns and questions • Skill and the use of local knowledge – To what extent have standard procedures been adapted to take local factors into account? • Spatial and temporal organisation – Does any data have a ‘use-by’ date? • Paperwork and computer work – How do forms and other artfacts act as embodiments of the process • Organisational memory – How well do formal records match the reality of how work is done?Socio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 14
  15. 15. Patterns of cooperative interaction • A means of communicating information about how people interact with each other through and around technology • Developed as a resource that enabled the generalisation and reuse of previous ethnographic studies • Represent patterns of work that are commonly observed and their significance • Provide a basis for fieldworkers to know what to look for when observing the workplace – Help address the problem of how to get started in ethnographySocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 15
  16. 16. Components of a pattern • Essence of the pattern • Why used? • Where useful? • Design implicationsSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 16
  17. 17. Examples of patterns • Artefact as an audit trail • Working with interruptions • Collaboration in small groups • Receptionist as a hubSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 17
  18. 18. Problems with ethnography • Focused, primarily, on co-located work • Excellent method for examining ‘work in the small’ i.e. work as practised by a small team • Not as effective for studying ‘work in the large’ i.e. work across an enterprise or organisation – Practical problems of studying many workgroups that are not co-located – Need to study management as well as use of systems – Communications between parts of the organisation are criticalSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 18
  19. 19. Studies of organisations • Challenge for socio-technical systems engineering • Enterprise systems – Goals of senior management may be different from goals of individual work groups – Diversity of comparable work across organisations – Organisational complexity – Rythyms of work and organisational timetables – Legacy systems, processes and cultureSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 19
  20. 20. Systems engineering and change • New systems are often introduced into an enterprise as part of a process of organisational change • However, there is often constrained and limited communications between the systems engineering team and the change team • One view of STSE is as a means to bridge the gap between the engineers developing the software to support new processes and the change team designing these processesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 20
  21. 21. Systems engineering processesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 21
  22. 22. Change processesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 22
  23. 23. Bridging the process gapSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 23
  24. 24. Sensitisation • Making sure that the stakeholders in the process understand: – Why human, social and organisational issues are important – Why they are not someone else’s problem – Why there may be good technical reasons that mean social ‘requirements’ have to be compromised. Engineering constraints are significant – Key issues from other stakeholdersSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 24
  25. 25. Constructive engagement • Working with stakeholders to implement new systems • No prescriptive model of how engagement should be practised or what socio-technical approach should be used – Engagement at all phases from procurement to operation may be useful – Make use of whatever resources and expertise are available – Research issue is to develop lightweight methods of social analysis that can be used as part of systems engineering processesSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 25
  26. 26. Evaluation framework • Evaluation of any changes to processes and methods is difficult as ‘repeatable experiments’ are practically impossible – For example, debate over the utility and generality of agile methods • Utility of the approach may be demonstrated by fewer problems in deployment and use – But how can it be shown these are directly related to the use of STSESocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 26
  27. 27. Key points • Socio-technical systems engineering has the aim of incorporating social and organisational analysis into systems engineering processes • Conventional ethnography is inappropriate and we need approaches that are designed for use by engineers • Guided ethnography may be used for analysis of cooperative work that is co-located • Enterprise-scale analysis remains a research problemSocio-technical Systems Engineering, EngD course, May 2010 Slide 27

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