Better information systems — VPEC-T (contd.)

Guiding those who will provide the Technology Solution

The purpose of a VPEC-T study is most likely to be to enable the selection, the building or the modification of a system based on Information Technology. It need not be: It may turn out that an improved manual process is more effective - but generally IT will be involved. The first, and arguably most important effect here of VPEC-T is to place a barrier in the path of those who want to think about the technology while the business aspects of a planned information system are still not understood. Not that there is an overt barrier, technology considerations are just not part of VPEC-T. If technology discussions arise while learning about an individual's Values, it will be seen to be clearly out of place, but important to know.

Once the VPEC-T report has been delivered, the next step will be to describe the IT requirements. The report will support this in the following ways:

A thorough Value review provides information that, if taken into account, ensures the technology solution supports the Values of all involved. Sometimes, knowing the values allows the fact that someone has another agenda to be taken into account, perhaps defensively. For example, if Jim wants to learn about Ajax (a Web 2.0 technology), in discussions he may favor that technology above other ways of achieving a similar end, even though there may already be much more experience in-house of, say, Flex/Flash. This might well be noticed and discussed without a VPEC-T study, but the 5D lens sets out to identify the values of all involved.

Making sure that Policies are deliberately hunted out ensures that the solution supports the full landscape of specific constraints and guidelines that affect how information is handled, processed and used.

The designers of the IT solution will have a cross-referenced description of Events, Content and Policies. They will have to analyze further to describe the detail of how the new IT solution will support the business activity triggered by the Events, but their starting point will be a description stripped of technological context and considerations of existing processes which may or may not be relevant.

Comprehensive identification of all Content, not just obvious data for processing, gives a new perspective on the business needs. Those who will implement or select the technology will see not just the formally collected and organized digital data, but the subtext, the information behind the information system. Their view, and therefore their application design, will encompass internal and external exchanges of information better.

For example, knowing that sales personnel sometimes call the warehouse before confirming an order, may lead to a web-based on-line inquiry being integrated into the system. Such a need might never have been identified if the attention were focused on what the user sees as ‘data’ to be processed.

Risks to IT associated with Trust relationships are made explicit. This is a two-way street: Users will also benefit from open discussion provided the obvious pitfalls of talking about trust can be avoided.

Conflicting needs and language in information systems design ⇒