Conference on Information Systems Applied Research
Conisar Proceedings

2011 CONISAR Proceedings
Wilmington, NC

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Abstract Presentation

On a Systemic Understanding of Software Development Contexts

Doncho Petkov
Eastern Connecticut State University

Steven Alter
University of San Francisco

Olga Petkova
Central Connecticut State University

Abstract
Understanding software development contexts is a precondition for better systems analysis and design. A starting point for us is a review of two existing typologies for software projects contexts proposed in 2005 by Bustard and Keenan and also by Alter and Browne. We propose a mapping of these contexts onto the System of Systems Methodologies by Jackson and Keys, a well-known grid whose dimensions include the diversity of stakeholder interests and the complexity of a problem situation. Thus we can explore in a unified way the various software development project situations discussed by Bustard and Keenan and also by Alter and Browne. That is useful also for justifying the application of a particular systems approach like Soft Systems Methodology by Checkland or the Work System Method by Alter within a particular software development project context.

Description
Understanding software development contexts is a precondition for tailoring a software process to include the most suitable methods for a given problem situation. First we explore the characteristics of problems situations according to a 2005 paper by Bustard and Keenan which introduces four types of software development contexts based on whether the focus is on the software system or its environment and whether the main concern are immediate short term needs or long term project needs. Bustard and Keenan show that certain systems development methodologies are suitable for each of the four contexts. That is followed by analysis of the software project contexts proposed by Alter and Browne in 2005 along two different dimensions. The first of them is the focus of Systems Analysis and Design efforts (referring to the relative weight of social emphasis versus technical emphasis in the project). The second dimension is the extent of change in work practices, ranging from a goal of fixing the technology but not changing existing work practices through a goal of achieving significant changes in work practices. Though the two classifications of project contexts are useful for getting an insight into project contexts they use different dimensions from those adopted in the literature in systems thinking and that may pose a problem when trying to justify the applicability of a particular systems approach in software development. We extend the work of Bustard and Keenan and Alter and Browne by mapping these contexts onto the System of Systems Methodologies by Jackson and Key, a well-known grid whose dimensions include the diversity of stakeholder interests and the complexity of a problem situation. Thus we can explore in a unified way the various software project situations investigated by Bustard and Keenan and Alter and Browne. That is useful for justifying the application of a particular systems approach like Soft Systems Methodology by Checkland or the Work System Method by Alter either alone or in a combination with other software development methods within a particular software development project context. The full paper titled On the Suitability of Soft Systems Methodology and the Work System Method in Some Software Project Contexts is accepted for publication in the International Journal of Information Technologies and Systems Approach (IJITSA), vol.5 No.2 in 2012.

Recommended Citation: Petkov, D., Alter, S., Petkova, O., (2011). The Proceedings of the Conference Information Systems Applied Research, v.4 n.1872, Wilmington NC.