Socio-technical Systems - Related Papers

To get started with reading in this area, we recommend the first paper below, namely Socio-technical systems: From design methods to systems engineering.

Socio-technical systems: From design methods to systems engineering - Gordon Baxter and Ian Sommerville

It is widely acknowledged that adopting a socio-technical approach to system development leads to systems that are more acceptable to end users and deliver better value to stakeholders. Despite this, such approaches are not widely practised. We analyse the reasons for this, highlighting some of the problems with the better known socio-technical design methods. Based on this analysis we propose a new pragmatic framework for socio-technical systems engineering (STSE) which builds on the (largely independent) research of groups investigating work design, information systems, computer- supported cooperative work, and cognitive systems engineering. STSE bridges the traditional gap between organisational change and system development using two main types of activity: sensitisation and awareness; and constructive engagement. From the framework, we identify an initial set of interdisciplinary research problems that address how to apply socio-technical approaches in a cost-effective way, and how to facilitate the integration of STSE with existing systems and software engineering approaches.

Baxter, G., & Sommerville, I. (2010). Socio-technical systems: From design methods to systems engineering. Interacting with Computers, 23(1), 4-17.

Fitting software to the organisation
- Ian Sommerville

Powerpoint Presentation. This presentation focuses on how adopting a socio-technical systems perspective can help reduce the 'time to value' for software systems. Time to value is the time between the conception of a system and the time when it delivers value to a company. Normally, this is some time after the software is actually delivered and deployed. By focusing on the fit between the software and the organisation, the software is more useful, more quickly.

Sommerville, I. (2008). Fitting software to the organisation: Reducing time to value for new software systems.


Dependable Domestic Systems Design: A Socio-technical Approach - Ian Sommerville and Guy Dewsbury

This paper describes a model that defines the attributes of domestic systems that lead to system dependability and a user-oriented specification method for support systems based on this model. We start by discussing technical dependability models and discuss how these have to be extended for use in a domestic context. We present an extended dependability model based on a socio-technical perspective. This extends the technical notion of dependability to take into account fitness for purpose, acceptability and adaptability. We then go on to discuss MDDS – a questionnaire-based method that reflects the socio- technical dependability model. It is intended for use by social care professionals who are specifying and designing support systems for older or disabled people. MDDS provides a basis for examining a design from a dependability perspective. We illustrate the use of the method and conclude with a discussion of its qualitative evaluation.

Sommerville, I. & Dewsbury, G. (2007). Dependable domestic systems design: A socio-technical approach. Interacting with Computers, 19(4), 438-456.

Dependability and Responsibility in Context - John Dobson, Ian Sommerville, and Guy Dewsbury

This book looks at socio-technical systems, that is systems which consist of a group of people working with some complex technology in order to achieve some common purpose. We shall be dealing in the main with the case of the technology being a computer system, though the ideas we shall present are applicable to other forms of technology, and we shall also discuss them in the context of a railway system. The main reason for looking at socio-technical systems is to explore the extent to which ideas of dependability, which have been developed for technical systems for some decades now, can be applied to socio-technical systems. It is no longer good enough simply to say that a failure was due to a computer error; in most cases there was a human error along the line too. We shall be looking at what sorts of thing can be said about error that applies to both computer error and human error. These ideas are not so much concerned with what causes errors, but how errors can be prevented or recovered from. It is this focus on prevention and recovery that led us to understand that there are indeed some concepts and structures that are common to the ways that errors are managed in both technical and human systems, though the actual causes may well be of very different kinds.

Dobson, J., Sommerville, I. & Dewsbury, G. (2007). Dependability and Responsibility in Context. In Responsibility and Dependable Systems. Dewsbury, G. and Dobson, J. (eds)., London: Springer. 1-20.