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Introducing socio-technical
systems
Ian Sommerville

Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013

Slide 1
What is a system?
A system is a purposeful collection of
inter-related components working
together to achieve a common
obj...
Image credit: http://www.nagsma.nato.int/

Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013

Slide 3
• A system may include
software, mechanical, electrical and
electronic hardware. People are
responsible for its installati...
• The properties and behaviour of system
components are inextricably intermingled. This leads to complexity.

Introducing ...
Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013

Slide 6
System categories
• Technical computer-based systems
– Systems that include hardware and
software but where the operators ...
Sociotechnical systems
• Sociotechnical systems
– Systems that include technical systems but
also operational processes an...
An automated weather station is part of
broader sociotechnical weather recording
and forecasting systems
These include har...
Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013

Image credit: http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/

Slide 10
The socio-technical systems
stack

Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013

Slide 11
Layers in the STS stack
• Equipment
– Hardware devices, some of which may be
computers. Most devices will include an
embed...
• Communications and data management
– Middleware that provides access to remote
systems and databases.

• Application sys...
Layers in the STS stack
• Business processes
– A set of processes involving people and
computer systems that support the
a...
• Society
– Laws, regulation and culture that
affect the operation of the system.

Introducing sociotechnical systems, 201...
Layer interdependencies
• There are interactions and
dependencies between the layers in a
system
• Many changes are cross-...
Changing banking regulations
•

Society changes banking regulations to allow greater
control of risky lending

•

This req...
• For dependability, a systems
perspective is essential
– Contain software failures within the
enclosing layers of the STS...
• A system is a purposeful collection of
inter-related components working
together to achieve a common
objective.

Introdu...
•Sociotechnical systems are systems
that include technical systems but also
operational processes and people who
use and i...
• To achieve dependability, we need to
contain failures within technical systems
and not let these spread to the broader
s...
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Introducing sociotechnical systems

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Introducing sociotechnical systems

  1. 1. Introducing socio-technical systems Ian Sommerville Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 1
  2. 2. What is a system? A system is a purposeful collection of inter-related components working together to achieve a common objective. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 2
  3. 3. Image credit: http://www.nagsma.nato.int/ Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 3
  4. 4. • A system may include software, mechanical, electrical and electronic hardware. People are responsible for its installation and operation. • Systems are procured, owned and operated by organizations. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 4
  5. 5. • The properties and behaviour of system components are inextricably intermingled. This leads to complexity. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 5
  6. 6. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 6
  7. 7. System categories • Technical computer-based systems – Systems that include hardware and software but where the operators and operational processes are not normally considered to be part of the system. The system is not self-aware. – Example: A word processor used to write a book. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 7
  8. 8. Sociotechnical systems • Sociotechnical systems – Systems that include technical systems but also operational processes and people who use and interact with the technical system. – Example: A publishing system to produce a book. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 8
  9. 9. An automated weather station is part of broader sociotechnical weather recording and forecasting systems These include hardware and software, forecasting processes, system users, the organizations that depend on weather forecasts, etc. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 9
  10. 10. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Image credit: http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/ Slide 10
  11. 11. The socio-technical systems stack Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 11
  12. 12. Layers in the STS stack • Equipment – Hardware devices, some of which may be computers. Most devices will include an embedded system of some kind. • Operating system – Provides a set of common facilities for higher levels in the system.. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 12
  13. 13. • Communications and data management – Middleware that provides access to remote systems and databases. • Application systems – Specific functionality to meet some organization requirements Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 13
  14. 14. Layers in the STS stack • Business processes – A set of processes involving people and computer systems that support the activities of the business. • Organizations – Higher level strategic business activities that affect the operation of the system. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 14
  15. 15. • Society – Laws, regulation and culture that affect the operation of the system. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 15
  16. 16. Layer interdependencies • There are interactions and dependencies between the layers in a system • Many changes are cross-cutting so that changes at one level ripple through the other levels Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 16
  17. 17. Changing banking regulations • Society changes banking regulations to allow greater control of risky lending • This requires changes to bank’s business processes • Application systems have to be changed to support this • Databases may have to record more information Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 17
  18. 18. • For dependability, a systems perspective is essential – Contain software failures within the enclosing layers of the STS stack. – Understand how faults and failures in adjacent layers may affect the software in a system. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 18
  19. 19. • A system is a purposeful collection of inter-related components working together to achieve a common objective. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 19
  20. 20. •Sociotechnical systems are systems that include technical systems but also operational processes and people who use and interact with the technical system. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 20
  21. 21. • To achieve dependability, we need to contain failures within technical systems and not let these spread to the broader socio-technical system. Introducing sociotechnical systems, 2013 Slide 21

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