Among the systemic approaches applicable in IS development, a major role is played by Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (Checkland, 1999; Checkland and Winter, 2006; Mingers, 1995, Mingers and White, 2010). Over the past 20 years another type of socio-technical systems thinking based on Vygodsky’s activity theory applied to IS development emerged in Scandinavia including the work of M. Korpela and his group in Finland under the name Activity Analysis and Development (ActAD) framework (Korpela et al., 2004, Mursu et al. 2007). The latter is slowly being enhanced through several research projects in the last decade but there has been no attempt at comparing it with other socio-technical approaches. The goal of this presentation is to analyse whether certain earlier criticisms of SSM apply to the activity driven approaches to IS development promoted by that group with the hope that certain comparisons may lead to better understanding of ActAD.
The problems with SSM as identified by the authors from the literature include: P1: SSM (as an interpretive approach) and IS development embodied different and conflicting epistemologies; P2:The processes entailed by SSM do not prescribe a method of encouraging broad participation of all stakeholders; P3: Initiating action and support of the choice phase in Simon’s model of decision making is unclear in SSM; P4: No reasoning is provided on how an SSM analysis may be reduced to an ISD technique from UML or from structured analysis and design; P5: SSM can be used as a learning framework in IS development for bridging the gap between social and technical aspects of IS.
We explore in this research in progress whether the listed criticisms of SSM apply to the activity driven approaches. The potential of ActAD for improving future IS development seems deserving attention and more effort to investigate its relevance for IS development research and practice.