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 Assignment Brief

This case study describes how a mining company desires to continue to be business-sustainable, i.e. to continue to make money.  However, as it turns out, the mining company has  been heavily criticised on social media, news outlets, and experienced criticisms and support from different sides of the political divide. As part of the exploration phase, the company has decided to engage the community to prepare them for the new mining  activity. Some members of the community welcomed the new investment, welcoming jobs, the influx of new workers and therefore anticipated an increase in economic activity.

The company has embarked on a social sustainability initiative. The mining company has established a new function to develop community relations through contributing to a school  initiative and also other community actions, e.g. charities, donations, public sporting events.  However, members of the public flooded the company's social media page with complaints about the company disrespect and accused the company of being hypocritical  in their intentions.  The accusations were about the use of a charity to increase their market share. The company did not have any plan to respond and this  vitriolic attack came as a surprise. The company shut down its social media page and withdrew from  the campaign.

You have been engaged by the company to do a study on this failed campaign and to write a report. The purpose of this is to enable the company to learn from what occurred and for  proposals to be considered to avoid this situation.

Prepare a report, to your executives, highlighting to them some of the points of view that may not have been considered in their campaign.

Your report should be 2500 words maximum, excluding references and appendices.

As a guide, you should consider these points:

  1. Propose a risk management framework that may be incorporated into future projects at planning stage;
  2. using Neohumanism as one of the two conflict based perspectives, explain the methodology for avoiding, as best as possible, individual employees from being partisan to this conflict;
  3. using Radical Structuralist the second conflict based perspective, explain in your report why there is a predicable negative backlash from the public against this marketing campaign;
  4. propose a set of questions that the project teams may ask in the future, to avoid the pressure in individuals;
  5. make well argued proposals, that are well grounded in literature, that would help future campaigns;
  6. demonstrate your ability to research this topic through the identification of at least 10 journal articles to support your work.

To repeat, it is necessary for you to demonstrate your ability to present the issues by selecting the appropriate perspectives to support your recommendations, or why you are offering  a few competing viewpoints.

Social Aspects of Computing

Rob Kling Editor

Four Paradigms of Information Systems Development Developing computer-based information systems necessarily in volves making a number of implicit and explicit assumptions. The authors examine four diffeen t approaches to information systems development.

Rudy Hirschheim and Heinz K. Klein

All systems developers approach the development task of systems failures. (The importance of implicit assump- with a number of explicit and implicit assumptions tions has also been noted more generally in [3,4, 76, about the nature of human organizations, the nature of 80, 891). We agree with the previous research that a the design task, and what is expected of them. These better understanding of developer assumptions is im- assumptions play a central role in guiding the informa- portant and we wish to extend the line of inquiry. In tion systems development (ISD) process. They also dra- particular, we feel there is a need to explore the most matically affect the system itself. This article will ex- fundamental foundations from where such assumptions amine the kinds of implicit assumptions made during arise, and this is done by applying a philosophical line systems development. of analysis.

Depending on the assumptions adopted, different sys- tems development approaches are identifiable and each of these leads to different system outcomes. Based on a detailed analysis of the literature, we will examine the fundamental assumptions of four major kinds of sys- tems development approaches and discuss how they lead to different outcomes.

More specifically, we wish to show (1) that although there is a strong, orthodox approach to systems devel- opment, there are recently developed alternatives that are based on fundamentally different sets of assump- tions; (2) that these assumptions primarily deal with the attitudes adopted toward reality and how to obtain knowledge about it; (3) that these assumptions are either explicitly or implicitly made in adopting a partic- ular development approach: (4) that the ways in which system objectives are legitimized are directly related to the development approach adopted; and (5) that impor- tant social consequences result from applying a particu- lar systems development approach.

The article is organized as follows. We begin by in- troducing two case examples that illustrate how differ- ent systems development assumptions become manifest in practice. These assumptions are then grouped into four paradigms of information systems development and explained in detail. The rhetorical vehicle used for explicating the paradigms are generic story types. The paradigms are analyzed using the story types, dividing the discussion into three parts: story line, interpreta- tion, and analysis. We return to the case examples to show how the manifest differences in the develop- ment process and outcomes can be explained by the four paradigms. We conclude by noting a number of benefits associated with the identification and analysis of the paradigms. The article provides a new vehicle for theorizing about the nature, purpose, and practice of information systems development.

TWO EXAMPLES Other researchers have also noted the importance of

systems developer assumptions, but their work has fo- cused on more specific aspects, e.g., analyst models of the users [25, 421, analyst hypotheses about the nature of requirements and behavior related to structuring problems [96], and analyst and user values [57]. Whereas these studies employ empirical means to doc- ument these assumptions, Bostrom and Heinen [14] have relied on an analysis of the literature to document seven implicit theories and views of designers as causes

Consider how the approaches taken in the following two systems development projects differ.

@1989ACM0001-0782/89/1000-1199 $1.50

Automating Typesetting or Enhancing Craftsmanship? Traditional newspaper production involves four major processes: writing, editing, typesetting, and printing. Reporters and columnists write copy which is then ed- ited. Typesetters take the edited copy and relevant pic- torial material, and lay out pages. Printers take the re- sults and print the newspapers. Typical systems designs focus on rationalizing newspaper production by com- bining tasks that can logically be done on the same

October 1989 Volume 32 Number 10 Communications of the ACM 1199


electronic device, such as editing and formatting. Page layout is conceived as a natural extension of format- ting. A requirements analysis along these lines suggests tha.t editors can perform the typesetting function be- cause computers already aid the editors with editing and page layout. Editors can embed typesetting com- mands directly in the final copy. Page layout is done on screen and sent to phototypesetting equipment. The ed- itors become responsible not only for editing but also for page make-up. Migh resolution screens; electronic cut, paste, and scaling facilities; and previewing appara- tus permit the typesetting function to be assigned to the editors.

In the UTOPIA project [Zg, 471, an alternative ap- proach was tried at one newspaper company. The sys- tems development team consisted of union representa- tivles and typesetters. Their goal was to establish an electronic typesetting support system that would en- hance the position of the typesetting craft in the news- paper industry. The newspaper’s management was ex- cluded from the design team so that typesetters’ interests were given primacy in all design decisions. Ex:isting turnkey systems were considered inappro- priate because of built-in design constraints and man- agement biases that did not take into account the unique requirements of the typesetting craft. These management biases emphasized cost savings, efficiency, and control leading to de-skilling, job losses, and an aesthetically inferior product. Data processing special- ists assumed an advisory role serving the typesetters’ interest. In the requirements analysis, the design team viewed typesetting as an essential task requiring spe- cia.list skills that would be lost by its integration with editing. Two types of requirements were established: (1) transformation of edited texts into made-up pages; and (2) creation of an aesthetically pleasing product. Typesetting skills differ from editorial skills; editors are in charge of content, and typesetters are in charge of form.* The typesetters were interested in retaining the quality of typesetting and possibly enhancing their own productivity. To retain quality, systems design options focused on providing the flexibility and diversity of the tratditional tools of the typesetting trade by electronic means. To meet this objective, the team found it neces- sary to use hardware mock-ups to overcome the limita- tions of the then-available technology. While similar to prdotyping, the hardware mock-ups overcame the bias inherent in the technology used for prototyping. The available prototyping tools were unable to accommo- date the craft skills that were used to meet the aes- thetic requirements of newpaper page layout. To en- hance the quality of typesetting output, additional system capabilities, such as scaling and finetuning the contrast of pictures, were added. The UTOPIA ap- proach resulted in an electronic typesetting support

’ The results of editorial work (planning content, planning pages. and text editinel mav be called a iournalistic model of the news~amx owe. The iour-

I I _ . . . I I

nalistic competence involved lies in improving the readability of the product. The make-up person refines the product by giving the journalistic model a graphic design. The graphic competence involved lies in improving the legi- bility of the product [‘La].

system that enhanced the typesetters’ skills and pro- ductivity.

The UTOPIA model also required the establishment of a new work organization [28]. While reporters have access to display terminals to write their articles, they do not code the text with typesetting commands. A central production unit, where journalists and graphic workers cooperate closely, is responsible for page edit- ing and make-up, typing manuscripts, proofreading, in- corporating major revisions, editing standard features such as TV listings, and coding individual articles. The editorial staff comprises editors and subeditors, whose responsibilities are also changed. Subeditors work most closely with the typesetters to make up the pages. Edi- tors are primarily responsible for maintaining a consis- tent overall viewpoint among different articles and serve as discussion partners for subeditors [28].

Developing an Expert System or a System for Experts? Deregulation has forced airlines to become increasingly cost conscious, yet airline safety depends on costly, high quality engine maintenance. In order to rational- ize engine maintenance, one airline com:pany devel- oped an expert system consisting of the rules for engine maintenance and repair. During the knowledge acquisi- tion phase, rules were extracted from engineering spec- ifications and maintenance handbooks.

When engines arrived at the maintenance plant, me- chanics disassembled them and placed the parts on work tables. Robots diagnosed possible faults through automated measuring and sensing. The facts gleaned about the state of the engine parts were fed to the expert system which then applied its rule base to deter- mine necessary repairs. It printed out a work schedule for making the repairs which was then followed by the mechanics.

When the system was implemented, the promised cost decrease in engine maintenance did not material- ize; on the contrary, maintenance costs increased by 13 percent. A redesigned system based on an alterna- tive design strategy was sought. A new dlesign team that included union representatives and mechanics was formed. Their cooperation was motivateld by a coalition with management which they saw as necessary to se- cure the viability of the company, and with it, their jobs. The design team first analyzed the reasons for the decrease in maintenance productivity and found that under the old system, mechanics relied too heavily on computer-based fault diagnosis. They did not check nor challenge the computer diagnosis for possible errors. These errors were the product of difficulties in formal- izing the knowledge base. Apparently, the mechanics’ knowledge acquired through education and experience could not easily be formalized and put i:nto the rule base of the expert system. There may also have been an error margin in the automatic sensing which created ambiguities. The new design team shifted the focus of requirements analysis from the acquisition of an expert rule base to the support of the mechanics’ judgment in diagnosing maintenance needs. The requirements study

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focused on the subtleties that come into play in decid- ing which maintenance is actually required for each engine part. The new design left the mechanics in charge of the fault diagnosis, because their experience and judgment was now considered indispensible. After the mechanics had decided on the necessary repairs they would then consult the computer system for avail- able repair options, availability of needed parts, etc. For this purpose the computer system turned out to be very useful. This design approach resulted in a system for experts rather than an expert system.

These two examples pose an interesting and impor- tant question: Do they point to subtle yet fundamental differences that originate from conflicting systems de- velopment philosophies, or are they merely variations of a single theme, namely one where a family of devel- opment approaches shares the same underlying philos- ophy? The answer to this question is important because different underlying philosophies may lead to radically different options in terms of design features, implemen- tation strategies, user satisfaction, and system use.

We seek to show that these differences are the prod- uct of fundamentally different underlying systems de- velopment assumptions. We identify dominant patterns resulting from differing sets of core assumptions that can be used to characterize the array of current system development approaches. We do not claim that this is the only way to organize them, nor that the assump- tions necessarily correspond to actual beliefs to which practitioners are committed.’ Rather, the core assump- tions have been derived from studying the descriptions of various systems development approaches that appear in the literature.3

FOUR PARADIGMS The most fundamental set of assumptions adopted by a professional community that allows its members to share similar perceptions and engage in commonly shared practices is called a “paradigm.” Typically, a paradigm consists of assumptions about knowledge and how to acquire it, and about the physical and social world.4 As ethnomethodological studies have shown [x] such assumptions are shared by all scientific and professional communities. As developers must conduct inquiry as part of systems design and have to intervene into the social world as part of systems implementation, it is natural to distinguish between two types of related

‘To establish this would need a representative empirical follow-up study of the belief systems held by practitioners. A first step in this direction is the study undertaken by Vitalari and Dickson [96]. It showed that the processes used by analysts in determining information requirements were more com- prehensive than the literature on structured systems development approaches had suppested.

’ Only insofar as the literature influences ISD practice would the assumptions derived from the descriptions of systems development approaches also be representative of the actual beliefs held by practitioners.

‘Paradigms are defined by Eiurrell and Morgan [IS] as “meta-theoretical as- sunmtions about the nature of the sub&t of studv.” This differs somewhat from Kuhn’s classic conception of paradigms which were defined as “univer- sally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model prob- lems and solutions to a community of practitioners” [56].

assumptions: those associated with the way in which system developers acquire knowledge needed to design the system (epistemological assumptions), and those that relate to their view of the social and technical world (ontological assumptions).

Two types of assumptions about knowledge (epistemological) and the world (ontological) are given by Burrell and Morgan [18] to yield two dimensions: a subjectivist-objectivist dimension and an order-conflict dimension. In the former, the essence of the objectivist position “is to apply models and methods derived from the natural sciences to the study of human affairs. The objectivist treats the social world as if it were the natu- ral world” [18, p. 71. In contrast, the subjectivist posi- tion denies the appropriateness of natural science methods for studying the social world and seeks to un- derstand the basis of human life by delving into the depths of subjective experience of individuals. “The principal concern is with an understanding of the way in which the individual creates, modifies, and inter- prets the world in which he or she finds himself [or herself]” (p. 3). In the order-conflict dimension, the or- der or integrationist view emphasizes a social world characterized by order, stability, integration, consensus, and functional coordination. The conflict or coercion view stresses change, conflict, disintegration, and co- ercion. The dimensions when mapped onto one another yield four paradigms (see Figure 1): functionalism (objective-order); social relativism (subjective-order); radical structuralism (objective-conflict); and neohu- manism (subjective-conflict). This particular framework has been chosen because it allows us to capture the distinguishing assumptions of alternative approaches to information systems development in a simplified yet philosophically grounded way.

The functionalist paradigm is concerned with provid- ing explanations of the status quo, social order, social integration, consensus, need satisfaction, and rational choice. It seeks to explain how the individual elements of a social system interact to form an integrated whole. The social relativist paradigm seeks explanation within the realm of individual consciousness and subjectivity, and within the frame of reference of the social actor as opposed to the observer of the action. From such a perspective “social roles and institutions exist as an expression of the meanings which men attach to their world” [93, p. 1341. The radical structuralist paradigm emphasizes the need to overthrow or transcend the limitations placed on existing social and organizational arrangements. It focuses primarily on the structure and analysis of economic power relationships. The neohu- manist paradigm seeks radical change, emancipation, and potentiality, and stresses the role that different so- cial and organizational forces play in understanding change. It focuses on all forms of barriers to emancipa- tion-in particular, ideology (distorted communication), power, and psychological compulsions and social con- straints-and seeks ways to overcome them.

These paradigms, initially identified by Burrell and Morgan [18] in the context of organizational and social

October 1989 Volume 32 Number 10 Communications of the ACM 1201



Radical Structuralism


Social Relativism




FIGURE 1. Information Systems Development Paradigms (adapted from [18])

research, also manifest themselves in the domain of information systerns development.5 Yet to show how the paradigms are actually reflected in ISD is compli- cated. The paradigms are largely implicit and deeply rooted in the web of common-sense beliefs and back- ground knowledge [go] which serve as implicit “theo- ries of action” [4]. A simplifying vehicle was sought to help develop and articulate the paradigms, in particu- lar, the types of behaviors and attitudes that follow from them. Such a vehicle was found in the notion of “generic stories” or, more precisely, generalized story types (genres). Each story type consists of typical classes of behavior that follow from the assumptions of a par- ticular paradigm. For example, different types of behav- ior in requirements determination arise depending on whether one believes in an objective organizational reality or not. These types of behavior were identified and grouped into story types. Each of these was derived by interpreting pools of systems development literature that share the assumptions of a particular paradigm. These pools have been identified by analyzing the spe- cific core assumptions and beliefs that are revealed in the concepts and examples they employ. This allows us to explicitly compare sets of assumptions that typically have not been widely articulated or systematically compared.

‘The view that these four paradigms capture the whole of sociological and organizational research is not without its critics. Numerous writers have criti- cized the Burrell and Morgan framework for being oversimplified [cf. 21, 46). For example, many are unhappy with the way functionalism is portrayed. e.g., that it denies conflict and that functionalists always adopt positivism. Coser’s [23] treatment of functionalism does take into account conflict; and certain functionalists did not necessarily adopt positivism (cf. Talcott Parsons]. Others argue that the dichotomies projected by Burrell and Morgan are artifi- cd. Although there iwe other frameworks for categorizing social science re- search [37, 911, none is xs representative of the IS development domain. We see the framework proposed by Burrell and Morgan–with some modifica- tion-as best depicting the different classes of systems development ap- proaches, relatively speaking. This is not meant, however, to rule out the need to explore other alternatives.

After each story type has been articulated in some detail, we provide a theoretical interpretation and dis- cuss some of its potential consequences. (For stylistic reasons, we shall now drop the qualifier type and sim- ply speak of story. The theoretic interpretation will take the form of discussing the (1) key actors of the story- the “who” part of the story; (2) narrative-the “what” of the story, what are the key features and activities; (3) plot-the “why” of the story, why did the action of the story take place the way it did; and [4) assump- tions-the fundamental beliefs held by the actors of the story, discussed in terms of epistemologi.cal and onto- logical assumptions.

The four stories are neither equally well-developed nor known. The same is true of their consequences. For the first story, there is a large experiential base from which to draw. It is the orthodox approach to systems development and has been used to develop information systems for decades. Its consequences, therefore, are reasonably clear cut. The other three stories are more recent and have not been widely applied. Thus practi- cal knowledge about them is sparse and their conse- quences largely conjectural. They are presented in the rough chronological order in which they emerged.

The four paradigms, as depicted through the stories, are not as clear cut nor as animated as they are made out to seem. There is overlap and their differences are overstated for the purpose of effect. They are, in fact, archetypes-highly simplified but powerful concep- tions of an ideal or character type [80]. ‘These ideal types do not exist as real entities; rather their proper- ties which are exhibited (to a greater or lesser degree) in existing entities give the archetype meaning. The archetypes reflected in the stories play #an important role in conveying the essential differences that exist in alternative conceptions of, and approaches to, systems development.

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Systems Development as Instrumental Reasoning This story has progressed considerably over the years [24, 87, 88, 941, and has been the source of many suc- cessful systems. The story suggests that all information systems are designed to contribute to specific ends. The role of management is that of the leadership group in the organization that knows or develops the ends which are then translated and specified in terms of systems objectives. The usual assumption is that the specification is as objective as possible. The resolution of polemical issues associated with objectives is seen as the prerogative of management and not normally within the domain of the systems developer. As a re- sult, the ends can be viewed as being articulated, shared, and objective. Of course, there are many kinds of conflicts with which the system developer does deal, but the tools and methods used typically concern only the choice of means to prespecified ends, not the sub- stance of the ultimate ends of a system.

Key Actors: Management, the system developer and users. Managers are responsible for providing the sys- tem objectives. The systems developer is the expert who takes the objectives and turns them into a con- structed product, the system. Management dictates the ends; the developers use specific means to achieve the ends. Users operate or interact with the system to achieve organizational objectives.

The primary role of the analyst is to be the expert in technology, tools and methods of system design, and project management. Their application helps to make systems development more formal and rational, placing less reliance on human intuition, judgment, and poli- tics. Politics is seen irrational as it interferes with maxi- mal efficiency or effectiveness. As noted by DeMarco, [27, p. 131 “Political problems aren’t going to go away and they won’t be ‘solved.’ The most we can hope for is to limit the effect of disruption due to politics. Struc- tured analysis approaches this objective by making analysis procedures more formal.”

Nnrrutive: Information systems are developed to sup- port rational organizational operation and effective and efficient project management. The effectiveness and ef- ficiency of IS can be tested by objective means tests which are similar to the empirical tests used in engi- neering. Requirements specification builds on the no- tion of a manifest and rational organizational reality. Information systems development proceeds through the application of “naive realism”-the notion that the va- lidity of system specifications, data models, decision models, and system output can be established by checking if they correspond to reality. Reality consists of objects, properties, and processes that are directly observable.

PIot: The ideal of profit maximization. As an organiza- tion’s primary goal is to maximize its shareholders’ wealth, the developed information systems must con- tribute to its profitability. Management is the most ap- propriate group to decide how profitability is to be at- tained and thus, is empowered to specify what the system objectives should be.

In this story there is one reality that is measurable and essentially the same for everyone. Otherwise it would not be possible to have what McMenamin and Palmer [77] call the “true requirements of the system.” The role of the developer is to design systems that model this reality [36] in a way that will turn the sys- tem into a useful tool for management to achieve their ends [7]. In principle, these ends coincide with organi- zational goals.

Through the concept of economic requirements, eco- nomic reality becomes measurable, taking on a nature- like, given quality. The economic reality (translated into quantitative, financial goals, and systems perfor- mance characteristics) allows system objectives to be derived in an objective, verifiable, and rational way. Systems design becomes primarily a technical process6

Assumptions: The epistemology is that of positivism in that the developer gains knowledge about the organiza- tion by searching for measurable cause-effect relation- ships. The ontology is that of realism since an empirical organizational reality that is independent of its per- ceiver or observer is believed to exist. The paradigm is that of functionalism, which is defined by Burrell and Morgan as an overall approach which: “seeks to provide essentially rational explanations of social affairs” [18, p. 261.

Analysis and Discussion The developer-as-systems-expert story, through its em- phasis on various forms of modeling, focuses on grasp- ing the underlying order of the domains in which or- ganizational actors operate. In the process, it assumes that there are general laws or regular patterns that help to explain and predict reality. It seeks to capture these by identifying key organizational relationships and as- pects in IS that help the actors to orient themselves and achieve their objectives. This simplifies a complex real- ity, making organizational life more rational. Rational- ity, in this case, relates to choosing the best means for achieving given ends (i.e., maximize efficiency and ef- fectiveness). The systems development approach sug- gested by this story attempts to follow the scientific

‘This is in part due to the reification of economic requirements which hides the human authorship of systems objectives, presenting them more as techni- cal objectives. Such a view has a rich historical backing. The belief that the economic laws are not of human authorship is very clearly portrayed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations who writes of an “invisible hand” that directs management de&i& to realize the economic interests of individual companies for the common good. From a social and economic policy perspec- tive. it is therefore unwise to question the legitimacy of management in deciding system objectives. This could only reduce the general welfare by leading to suboptimal allocation of economic resources. Furthermore this stow adouts manv features of the “bureaucraw ideal tvoe” of Weher 1971 such

. . _ ~1 . 1 as instrumental rationality, formalization, and depersonalization.

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method. This aids its clarity and comprehensibility, and makes it widely acceptable to the community at large. Moreover, it helps operationalize fuzzy issues and di- rects efforts to finding productive technical solutions.

The features of this story support a number of appar- ently appealing beliefs. First, it allows the developer to play a neutral and objective role during systems devel- opment which helps in clarifying the implications of alternative system …


Organisational Analysis

Analysing and Codifying Organisational Knowledge



To discuss knowledge as an organisational resource (VIRO)

To discuss knowledge creation cycles in organisations

To build on your understanding of knowledge cycles organisations.

Codifying knowledge

Controlled dictionaries, vocabularies



Organisational Implications


Definition of Knowledge Management

“Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”

Davenport, T. and Prusak, L. (1998)

This definition does not commit any stakeholder to any particular form of method or technology.


Job Profiles in Knowledge Management


Knowledge and Competitive Advantage

As a Resource:

Knowledge, in the organisational context, is:

the sum of what is known among organisational members.

Organisational success requires organisations to develop new techniques and competencies to fully utilise the intelligence & knowledge among its organisational members.

To become aware of and utilise both explicit and tacit knowledge.


Knowledge – Resource Based View

Competitive Advantage

Part of strategy is taking a resource based view of the organisation

Knowledge, learning are intangible resources

Competition in the ‘knowledge economy’ requires organisations:

to acquire & make use of (i.e. exploit) existing knowledge (within and beyond the organisation)

manage and utilise knowledge innovatively through exploration and searching for new options