Information Management CyberneticsViable Systems ModellingThe use of Viable Systems Modelling (VSM) recognises that management systems arebuilt up of self managing sub-systems that interact with the wider organisational systemsthat surround them. The key success factor for any management sub-system is that itshould be viable in its own right and able to self-manage, given appropriate supportservices and resources.The value of the VSM approach is that it specifically addresses the issues ofcommunications and control capacity in the management system. It seeks to balance thehigh and low complexity components of the system through structures that ensurerequisite variety. It is for this reason that it falls within the scope of the transdisciplinaryapproach of cybernetics.What this means in practice is that the low capacity and complexity of management hasto be amplified to meet the control and communications requirements of the systembeing managed. Equally, the high complexity of the information being received bymanagers about the system operations needs to be attenuated for them to be able toabsorb that information and respond in an effective way.The benefit of modelling the management system in this way is that in easily identifiescommunications and control problems that impact on management effectiveness.Typically; communications and control bottlenecks that prevent organisational goalsbeing met in a timely and cost-effective way.The VSM model is recursive, in that each sub-system has the same generalmanagement structure with the communications and control capacity to successfullyperform its management role. This is represented diagramatically in the studentinformation management systems shown in the examples below with the Viable Systemon the right hand side and the management Environment with which it interacts on theleft.Viable Systems Models: The Student Application, Enrolment and RegistrationProcessesThe structure of the VSM models that follow are derived from the series of interviewsconducted with the stakeholders involved with the management activities concerned.The purpose of each model is to stimulate and inform a discussion about themanagement processes involved with a view to identifying opportunities forimprovement.The focus in the models is on communications and control capacity. The questions to beasked are: • Are the requisite communications and control chanels in place? • Do the channels have the capacity to deliver their intended outcomes? • Does the system balance the differential complexities effectively?The comments made following each management process representation address theseissues.
1a. The Full Time (UCAS) Student Application Process Institution Prospectus Student Decision and Information from UCAS Chosen Course Application Personal Guidelines Online User UCAS Record and support Interface UCAS Register of Applicants UCAS MR Registration UCAS Application UCAS MA Records Application Application EnvironmentComments: • Process: The application process is managed by the potential student and carried out with assistance (when needed) from institutional advisers and UCAS guidelines; • Management: The process represents a self-contained management activity controlled by the prospective student; • Requirements: An intuitive interface and process for non-technical users with clear feedback on successful completion and process outcomes/results; • Current System: The current system is provided by UCAS with information and application management by the institution. The student applies and receives a decision through the UCAS website; • Areas for Improvement: The present system is reported to work effectively and efficiently from the student point of view. Bottlenecks occur when examination results are published, particularly national A level results.
1b. Non-UCAS Student Application Process Institution Prospectus Student Decision Chosen Course Application Personal Guidelines Online/Postal Application Record and support Application Institutional Register of Applicants Application MR Registration Institutional Application Application MU Records Upload Application EnvironmentComments: Process: The application process is managed by the potential student and • carried out either online or by submitting an application form by post; • Management: The process involves the manual transcription of all application data onto the institutional system by registry staff; • Requirements: The system accommodates both online and postal applications and caters primarily for part-time and overseas students; Current System: Both online and postal applications are received in registry by • either the UK admissions or overseas admissions sections and are manually uploaded to the institutional applications database; • Areas for Improvement: An online applications system that does not require manual transcription of information would be a significant improvement.
2. The Student Enrolment Process Institution Confirmed Student Decision Offer Chosen Course Enrolment Personal Guidelines Online User Enrolment Record and support Interface Approved Login Credentials System ML Login Institution Online Enrolment MC Enrolment Completion Service Enrolment EnvironmentComments: • Process: The enrolment process is managed by the potential student and carried out with assistance (when needed) from institutional advisers; • Management: The process represents a self-contained management activity controlled by the prospective student; • Requirements: An intuitive interface and process for non-technical users with clear feedback on successful completion and process outcomes/results; • Current System: The current online system for self-enrolment by students is reported to work effectively and efficiently; • Areas for Improvement: No specific system improvements identified. It is recommended that the system be used for all student enrolment modes including part-time and international students.
3. The Student Registration Process Management Verification Completed Student Enrolment Chosen Course Registration Student Semi- Registration Record Linked automated Systems Processes Unique MID Approved Student ID Student Credentials ID Card MIC Issue Moodle Login Moodle MM Account Library Account Library ML Account Institution and SLC Accounts Finance MF Account Faculty Records Student MS File Registration Environment
Comments: • Process: Student registration occurs when the enrolment process is completed and approved; • Management: Upon verification, a series of follow-on processes are triggered which lead to the student support services being set up; • Requirements: A complete and consistent semi-automated system that ensures the sharing of all core student data, the inclusion and verification of additional service data, and confirmation of successful completion to both management and students; • Current System: All the student registration systems stem from the completion of the enrolment process by the student/staff and the verification of that enrolment. The enrolment is either completed online by the student (mainly full-time students) or is carried out by staff (mainly part-time and overseas students); • Areas for Improvement: A fully online student based enrolment process that, once verified by the institution, leads to the sharing of core student data with all information sub-systems. This would range from the physical issuing of student identity cards to the creation of their Moodle learning accounts.Conclusions:The various components of the student information management system becomepopulated following student enrolment and registration. It is at this stage that core data isdistributed to each of the support systems and outcomes, such as student identity cardsand system registrations are issued.The VSM models are presented as representations of current management practice andindicate the extent to which they fulfill their roles. It is hoped that they will contribute todiscussions about improved systems and practice as the institution progresses with itsmerger process.