The systems methodology I would recommend for the Utility is Effective Technical and Human Implementation of Computer-Based Systems (ETHICS). Underneath this, I would more specifically recommend Participatory Design (PD) as this also falls under Ethics, however I will discuss Ethics first and then PD. Ethics is a methodology created by Enid Mumford around 15 years ago, he has been developing it ever since. It is what is known as a participative approach, with participation of the end-users being a focal point. Hirschheim defines participation in terms of systems development as the following: “A type of systems development approach where the users take the lead in (and often control of) the development process, and where the substance of development is expanded to include social and organisational concerns, eg. job design, decision making responsibilities, reporting relationships and the like.” (Hirschheim in Knight, 1989:196)
Main objectives for the users of Ethics are things such as improved job satisfaction and improved quality of working life. (Avison, Fitzgerald, 1988:230) It is based on a socio-technical view, and we can see just from the title of this view that it is an attempt to take into account both technological and social aspects, not just focusing on one or the other. As stated above, the fact that the methodology looks closely at job satisfaction and quality of working life means that it takes into account many of the user-related issues that are lacking in hard system approaches, making it more efficient than a hard system approach. “In addition, it encompasses the socio-technical view, that for a system to be effective the technology must fit closely with the social and organizational factors.” (Avison, Fitzgerald, 1988:230)
The general process for the way in which Ethics is carried out is as follows: a small number of the users are chosen, the users are chosen from not just one level of the organisation, but from different levels with the purpose of obtaining a broad/wide sample. This group is named the user design group and plays the main role in terms of the user participation during the development of the new system. This group, under the guidance of management and perhaps a steering group, analyses the workplace environment as well as the different work processes that go on within it. This provides the social view of the approach. While they are doing this, they are in constant consultation with technical experts that will eventually build the new system based on the user design group’s analysis, and this provides the technological view of this approach.
I think Ethics would be appropriate for the Utility in that it would ensure that the IS staff do not produce a system that the Dispatch staff are unhappy with, as the Dispatch staff will be involved in the development, informing the IS staff of how the work procedures are carried out as well as what the working environment is like. This will enable IS staff to develop a system accurate to the user needs. This kind of approach, because of its collaborative nature, will also help in eliminating the current conflicts between IS and Dispatch staff, as they would be working together as a single unit in order to develop an efficient system that is appropriate for its purpose. Therefore the ‘us against them’ view that is currently present between these two employee groups at the Utility will be decreased.
Ethics has three major principles which are the following: 1. Future users are enabled to play a major role in the design of a new system and are able to take responsibility for designing the structure of the work that surrounds the technology. 2. It is ensured that new systems are acceptable to the users because they both increase user efficiency and job satisfaction. 3. Users are assisted so that they become increasingly competent in managing their own organisational change so that this activity can be shared with technical specialists and this will then reduce demands on decreasing amounts technical resources. (Schuler, Namioka, 1993:259)
As can be seen from the above principles, Ethics is effective at developing sufficient systems to fulfil desired roles because it allows users to play a large part in the design and also to think about the structure of the technology they are to use. This means that a successful system would be produced at the Utility because the Dispatch workers would be designing a system for their own use, meaning they have knowledge of the work carried out that designers will lack, and will be able to put this knowledge into the development.
As well as this, Dispatch staff will be able to be responsible for how the technology of the system will work. “More importantly, they (end-users) have the skills of knowing about their own work and system, and have a stake in the design. This is much more than many traditional analysts and designers.” (Avison, Fitzgerald, 1988:241) This also generates another advantage in that the organisation will not have to spend as much time and resources training the Dispatch workers in how to use the new system because they will already have a good idea of how it work as they partly designed the technology for it.
As the second principle shows us, the use of Ethics will also ensure that the system is well accepted by the end-users as the system will directly and clearly create improvements in user efficiency and job satisfaction respectively. A positive acceptance of the new system by the end-users is an extremely important factor in terms of the system being a success or failure. The third principle demonstrates to us that the use of Ethics means that users will be assisted by management and technical staff making them competent in the ability to manage their own organisational change. This means Dispatch staff will become more confident in how to handle the organisational change that’s involved in developing a new system, and confidence can result in a higher work rate. This task would also be shared between the Dispatch and IS staff, meaning Dispatch will not have to make so many demands on technical resources as the IS staff will be present sharing the management of the organisational change.
Ethics was used in the National Health Service (NHS) as they want to introduce a new comprehensive computer-based system with the purpose of improving the management of resources by securing better information on how resources are used and how use affects cost. A small, representative group of nurses were chosen to be the user design group. To get a wide sample to ensure that the system was not designed only taking into account one group of nurses point of view, nurses from three different levels in British hospitals were chosen. These were sisters and charge nurses, staff nurses, and enrolled nurses.
The user design group’s analysis of the workplace environment and work procedures consisted of the following: the nurses had meetings where supervised discussions were held, the nurses were all given Ethics works books to fill in and were required to state things such as a mission statement as well as a set of key tasks and objectives, the nurses were required to document things such as the tasks they had to perform on a regular basis, what they spent most time on, and their frequent and most serious problems.
The nurses were then given sets of questions to answer in order to gain more information on their views. At the end of this project, the results were evaluated and were found to be a success. Ethics had allowed the nurses to be very aware of the importance of good information and also helped them to state where this was needed. It had also given them a certain amount of control over the development of the new computer system and in the future they would be able to monitor its performance and suggest improvements. (Schuler, Namioka, 1993:264-267)