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IS Quality: Developing a framework to support management teams in determining the quality of their IS services and outputs

27 Apr

IS Quality

Developing a framework to support management teams in determining the quality of their IS services and outputs:

In my last post, I reviewed and discussed more about factors that cause the failure of Information Systems in organisations and how they can be avoided. I also talked about the success factors and how best to make them happen in order to achieve positive outputs that IS could offer to Firms and Organisations. However, in this post, I will further my review and discussions on Information Systems quality in relation , and with reference to business intelligence, also connecting with comments to some key points discussed in other blogs I have read. I will also include some of my findings from social media making News around the world.


I keeping with team spirit, I would like to congratulate my Blog colleague with the author; davidoppermann who is also blogging on IS Quality, for the visual representations in his last blog entitled; (Fox or Hedgehog? A Guide to Developing a Framework for Decision Makers). Nevertheless, I will be quick to suggest that we should mix any chosen framework with some points to illustrate the likely positive results or outcome of such framework in relation to IS quality in organisations. In his analogies, he focused more, if not only, on the conceptual framework from Marc Clifton without telling us the exact or anticipated values IS could derive from such framework if implemented. This, I believe will help our team and even a granny to understand what we are talking about, thereby reducing much of brain storming for our readers. However, he did a good research.

Business Intelligence (BI) in relation to IS Quality:  

According to Solomon Negash (2004), in order to improve the timeliness and quality of inputs in decision process, Business intelligence systems therefore, combine operational data with analytical tools to present complex and competitive information to planners and decision makers. Negash in his own words defined Business Intelligence Systems as follows: “BI systems combine data gathering, data storage, and knowledge management with analytical tools to present complex internal and competitive information to planners and decision makers”. In furtherance to the above, Negash stressed that, business intelligence is a mirror-image with which firms’ capabilities in terms of; the-state-of-the-art, trends, future directions in the markets, the regulatory environment for competition, as well as competitors’ actions and the implications of their actions can be clearly understood.

From the above definition, we can understand that BI systems deliver actionable information at the right time, at the right location, and in the right form to help improve timeliness and quality of inputs to decision making process. According to Langseth and Vivatrat (2003), business intelligence can be view as proactive, and has the following components: real-time data warehousing, data mining, automated anomaly and exception detection, data visualisation, proactive alerting with automatic recipient determination, geographical information systems, etc.

Figure 1 below illustrates how BI uses various available information inputs to achieve the intelligence needed for decision making in organisation.

OLAP = On-Line Analytic Processing, DW = Data Warehousing, DM = Data Mining, EIS = Executive Information System, and ERP = Enterprise Requirement Planning.

Figure 1: Inputs to Business Intelligence Systems (Business Intelligence by S. Negash).

This article describes BI as a natural outgrowth of former systems designed to support in decision making process. Business intelligence became stronger and more relevant with the support of data warehousing as a repository, data cleansing, hardware and software, and the internet technologies with prevalent user interface. Business intelligence gathers information from various other systems to build its proactive capabilities as shown in figure 2 below.

OLAP = On-Line Data Processing, CRM = Customer relationship Management, DSS = Decision Support Systems, GIS = Geographic Information Systems.

Figure 2: Business Intelligence Relation to Other Information Systems (Business Intelligence by S. Negash).

To conclude, Business Intelligence converts data into information and, through human analysis, is converted into knowledge.

IS Quality Helping to Reduce Environmental Degradation

The important information systems play in our lives and environments cannot be over emphasised. It is my opinion that the quality of information system can only be measured by its outputs. Information Systems has continued to advance in so many ways, and in trying to change not only the way we do business, but also the way we live our live and how we conduct and protect our environment for the future generations yet unborn. The IS quality has greatly manifested itself in the campaign against environment pollution in the world’s most populous industrial region China. Information system is an embodiment of data, people, process, and IT artefacts. The latest technological breakthrough has come from the campaign against environmental pollution which has lead to the production of fresh clean air in a can in China.

Fresh Clean Air in a Can is being distributed freely on the streets of Beijing China by a Chinese Philanthropist Chen Guangbiao. The Philanthropist predicts that in the next ten years masks will be used in Beijing due to massive air pollution currently eating deep into the environment.

The fresh air is being harvested from the less polluted rural areas of China such as Tibetan and Shansi provinces. Each of the fresh canned air will cost about ¥45 or about US$7, but Chen Guangbiao has promised to donate 80c from each can sold back to the rural community.

Considering the amount of smog infiltrating the entire environment in Beijing, Mr. Guangbiao may be absolutely right in his ten years’ use of masks prediction. It has been reported, that nearly 50 percent of patients in the outpatients’ ward in a Beijing hospital, including children are currently suffering from respiratory related diseases. As at Tuesday 29 January, the reading from the air quality shows 400 in Beijing.  That is the index which measures particulate Matter in the air with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres, known as PM2.5. A level of 300 is considered to be dangerous, and the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

Should the authorities concerned not make serious efforts to bring this situation under control, it is no doubt that in no distance time, air will seriously become an essential commodity which the poor cannot afford to buy in China, and maybe, in due course, in some other countries too, and gradually so, the world will be drifting to, not only environmental degradation, but to what I may term “global environmental holocaust”.

Follow the link below and take a view on how fast the world is advancing in Information Technology (Source: – (“Canned Air” Hitting Beijing’s Smog-Filled Streets)).


  1. Solomon Negash: Computer Science and Information Systems Department

Kennesaw State University; (Communication for the Association for Information systems (Volume 13, 2004) 177 – 195):

  1. (“Canned Air” Hitting Beijing’s Smog-Filled Streets).

House of Quality: An IS Quality Tool (Extension from Quality Assurance Model)

25 Feb

The House of Quality Matrix (HOQ) is a tool that can be adapted to systematic planning of improvements in IS Quality process. The HOQ tool translates customer requirements, based on a customer questionnaire and benchmarking data, into an appropriate number of engineering targets to be met by the IS system. The HOQ matrix is a high level view of how the IS system meets the needs of the IS system customers. It becomes the nerve centre and the engine that drives the entire IS Quality system process. Looking specifically at the security of the IS system and adapting it to the HOQ.


The “Voice of the Customers” (Section1)
The initial steps in forming the House of Quality include determining, clarifying, and specifying the
Customer Requirements (Security Column). These steps lay the foundation for a clearly defined means of comparing the fit between customers’ needs and IS system specifications. The Voice of the customer is captured by listing the ranked customer needs from 1-10 (Importance Column):

 Security Table.jpg

The customer needs are then copied by the tool into SECTION_1 of the HOQ matrix (shown in blue box outline).

Security Table.jpg

Rating the IS Functional Requirements (Section 2)
Customers buy benefits and the IS offers features. How well the customers’ needs are met by the IS specifications are captured by listing the features in SECTION_2 of the HOQ matrix which is done by scoring each customer requirement against each Functional Requirement. So the customer requirement “No intruders in any building” has a strong correlation (●) with the functional requirement “Biometric Access” and “Offices with badge access” but has a weak correlation ( ▽) with “Single network” functional requirement. This process is repeated for each customer requirement and each IS requirement. (○) denotes a medium relationship between customer and system requirements.

Section 2

Customer Competitive Assessment (Section 3)
The next step in the HOQ process is comparing the in-house quality system with competitive products. This comparison is completed in SECTION_3 by scoring how well each competitor meets the customer requirements. Four different competitors were added for comparison:

Section 3Direction of Improvement 

This section is used to indicate in which way a product feature can be improved, example increasing the bandwidth might improve a product or reducing the number of failures might improve a product.



This section allows us to observe the effect of making a change on all other Functional Requirements, for example decreasing the number of failures may improve one aspect of the  product but decrease negatively other aspects of the product such as “Cost”. In the HOQ matrix this is depicted by the pyramid like structure at the top.

Technical Competitive Assessment (Section 4)

 This section allows us to see the relative fit of the current IS Quality system compared to the customer requirements.
Any score = 1 (shown in RED) is an area of mandatory improvement. A score of 3 means satisfactory and 9 means the Functional Requirements are meeting the customer requirements. The assessment of the IS Quality system and its systematic improvement can be managed by the HOQ Matrix.

Section 4Step-by-Step Process

In the example shown above for IS security we proceed as follows.

1. For each of the IS functional Blocks (in our example the SECURITY block) we use a questionnaire to list all the ranked customer requirements.
2. We then list the product features in the Functional Requirements.
3. We then set the direction of improvement in the Direction of Improvement.
4. For each customer requirement a score is made against each functional requirement.
5. A competitive comparison with a selected number of customers is made, allowing us to see how well the IS QUALITY system is performing.
6. The scores are noted in the Technical Competitive Assessment, any score 1 or 3 are areas where the product needs to improved.
7. A target score is set for each of the technical requirements, priority being given to those areas with a low score.
8. Finally the score of the overall fit of the technical requirements against the customer needs are noted in the TOP LEVEL table. Overall score rating for security was calculated by dividing the sum of  your product points (Product row) over the total sum. This can be done for other quality sections:

Top level

A HOQ matrix can be done not only for security but also for; Database, System Design, Usability and User Interface following the same process. Customer and functional requirements will vary for each.

***Look at the excel file which provides you with template tables and HOQ matrix used for determining the Quality of your current IS***

Quality Assurance Model

24 Feb

(McCarthy, Murphy, Ní Ghaora, Oppermann)


Our aim was to create a pre-implementation model to enable the identification of the quality attributes required by an organisation therefore ensuring the success of the Information System. The correct identification of the elements which align best with the business needs of the organisation is in our view the first step in determining the scope of the project that the management team has been tasked with. A clear vision of the areas of the Information System which are to be developed to deliver high quality to the organisation is imperative from the beginning of the project.

Our concept has been developed on the premise that there is a need for organisations to isolate the attributes that will deliver high quality to their firm and remain resource savvy in the pursuit of the ideal Information System.[1]

Our model will provide potential customers with specific categories of quality and associated attributes which they must focus on to ensure Information System quality.  We propose the ‘Quality Assurance Model’, we feel it fully encompasses the three main categories of IS quality and their underlying attributes.

The three main categories being;

1)      Service Quality

2)      System Quality

3)      Information Quality

These three categories are widely accepted as the main contributing factors of IS quality.[2]


Quality Assurance Model


We feel if companies use our model in the implementation and planning stage of the Information System then they can ensure that the system they intend to implement will provide high quality outputs in the areas which they have identified as essential to their organisation. We also propose a tool which a management team can use to consult & reach consensus on the areas of the Information System which must be focussed on to ensure the delivery of high quality, we call it the ‘100 Point System’. This model will be discussed in detail further on in this paper.

However we would first like to outline the attributes and categories of our ‘Quality Assurance Model’, why we chose them and why we feel they are of importance in relation to an information systems quality.

User Interface:

  • User Perspective – This ensures that you design your system with the end user in mind throughout the whole development process. Without thinking of the eventual end of day users then the design may be completed with fundamental flaws and require expensive re-designs, e.g. the Sony ‘Boomerang’ [3] 


While service quality is a broad term, it is stated in Pitt et al. 1997 that “commonly used measures of IS effectiveness focus on the products rather than the services of the IS function. Thus, there is a danger that IS researchers will mismeasure IS effectiveness if they do not include in their assessment package a measure of IS service quality”. This highlights the importance of usability and the other dimensions of it which are shown in the framework.

Whether the end user is a customer or employee, usability will play a role in the quality of an IS. In the paper “Framework for Quality Metrics in Mobile-Wireless Information Systems” by Ruti Gafni, he highlights usability as a “quality quantification of an IS”.

According to ISO/IEC 9126-1, 2001, an information security standard and best practices publication, usability can be broken further down to the following four dimensions;

  • Understandability – How simple a system is to understand is without doubt a huge aspect of its ease of use. This paper is entirely devoted to measuring understandability and highlights the importance of this dimension of usability.[4]
  • Learnability – is defined as how easy it is for a user to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design. If a system is easy to learn then it is very likely that a user will use it again.
  • Operability – Is the capability of the software component to enable the user (system developer) to operate and control it.
  • Attractiveness – The capability of the system to be attractive to the user [5]

System Design:

The way in which your system is designed may well be its competitive advantage. Design has become a central core competency to a great deal of S&P 500 companies;

“Anybody now can turn out any product, what will differentiate is that unique design flare that’s built into a product, that’s what creates the value.”  (David Frost, British Chamber of Commerce)

£20 billion is spent a year in the UK on design, leading the UK to the forefront of most design frontiers, design is also the largest single source of intangible investment in the UK. [6]

  • Future Proof – When ensuring the quality of your system it is important to plan ahead, create a system can be updated a new technology becomes available, e.g. future proof your system. These might include Distributed Systems, Multimedia Interfaces, Advanced Operating Systems and Human Computer Interface (HCI) Development Environment’s.[7]
  • Technology Optimisation – Your system is limited by the technology of the day, your design should maximise the current technology for the best quality and performance. [8]
  • Design Cycle – The design cycle ensures your system is evolutionary, it engages in design, prototyping and evaluating. Undergoing this process allows it to guarantee quality and maintain a good relationship with their users. [9]


Information Systems are inherently vulnerable and the information assets which it contains must be protected. This is true of all organisations however it may be that it is of more concern to certain industries, which is an issue for each individual organisation to ascertain. The main aspects which must be considered are the importance of the data which they hold and the implications if this data was to be released or was accessible to those without permission or authority and the potential damage to the business reputation if this data was to be hacked.

There are three elements which must be considered when considering the levels of security required from the Information System:

  • Confidentiality – Managers must insure that information is shared only with authorised personnel within the organisation. The encryption of data is a method of ensuring data cannot be accessed by unauthorised users.
  • Integrity – This involves ensuring that the data is accurate and has not been changed inappropriately to give misleading or false information.
  • Availability – This means that the information system responsible for delivering, processing and storing the information is available when needed. This can refer to the downtime of a system, and its percentage of downtime per year is a good indicator on how available that system is.[10]


As discussed in the team’s blogs, the importance of databases cannot be understated. It is impossible to evaluate the quality of an IS without looking at its database. What is more, when deciding what you want from your database, it is essential to realise that trade-offs must be made.


This further supports our quality assurance models principle, that frameworks being used to implement Information Systems can be too broad and that individual firms must decide their own needs. Here are elements of the database which we feel are most important;

  • Data Accuracy – Dallas Dogger, CEO of Storman Software says; “when other members of the operation rely on management data to make decisions for the business, it’s crucial to be consistent and accurate”. This video highlights the problems poor data accuracy can cause.
  • Data Completeness – Is the extent to which the expected attributes of data are provided, for e.g. a customer field would not provide the end user with sufficient data if it did not have complete info about the customer including contact number and name etc.
  • Data Format – Data must be structured for consistency as well as performance, so data format can have a huge bearing on this.
  • Database Performance – The overall function of a database is to satisfy the end user. Database performance can be defined in different ways, depending on the end user and the data at hand, as well as the goals. Response time is a factor, as well as capacity and scalability. (via Girtab)

Databases can be built in several different structures, each of which will satisfy the end user in different ways. Databases can be indexed differently, and several different schemas exist. This can affect the end users experience, and therefore the quality.

100 Point System:

To ensure the Quality of an Information System we propose a points system.

A management team is presented with an allocation of 100 maximum points, these points can be invested into the subcategories which they highlight as representative of the areas which require most investment to provide them with a high quality IS.

The system works by assigning values to our IS Quality hierarchy as seen above.  For this model prototype we have chosen 100 points as the total which the company can spend on its quality assurance information system. These 100 points may be divided amongst the different sub categories and attributes allowing them to be customisable to the client’s needs. Each of our five subcategories is assigned 20 points by default. These 20 points is divided between the underlying attributes. The company may for example require less an emphasis on the user design perspective and reduce its 20 points to 5.  In this instance they have identified that this aspect of the IS less significant to the company and now have an additional 15 points in their ‘Available Points’ to spend on other factors  which they deem have greater importance e.g. Security.

So as an example, Bank of Ireland may place less importance on how their online banking system looks, but still want to ensure a basic quality, in this scenario they can use the Quality Assurance Model to rank the required quality output using the 100 points system. As shown above they may reduce the importance of the design features to use their ‘Available’ points to spend on performance or online security.

Here is an example of the ‘100 Point System’ in default with an even spread of points


Here is an example of the 100 Point System being used by a Financial Services Business


You can see that the bank has only used 77 points of their allotted 100, therefore they have 23 points left to use in the Information Quality category. It is clear immediately that the bank has placed more of an importance on its security needs compared to its user design.

We would recommend a questionnaire to be completed by department heads to enable them to establish the level of importance of & therefore the quality required from each subcategory, e.g. a bank and its’ security requirements.

The questionnaire may contain questions like;

1)      How significant out of 10 is user interaction with your system?

2)      How significant out of 10 is security to your system?

3)      How significant out of 10 is database performance to your system?

4)      How significant out of 10 is it that your system is future proofed?

The questionnaire however may be an idea for further research.


We developed this framework as a tool to be used by management teams, the aim of this hierarchy model & the ‘100 Point System’ is to encourage management to focus on the areas of the Information System which are most important to the organisation. We believe by visualising & identifying these elements of the Information System which they deem to be the most important to their organisation will ensure high quality deliverance from the system.

The concept for this model was developed based on our belief that the high failure rate of Information Systems is due to the attempts to achieve high quality in all areas of an Information System and the misuse of the organisations resources in these attempts. A misalignment of the vision for the Information System & the business needs creates frustration for the users and in many cases leads to its failure. One example of the catastrophic failure of an IS due to the lack of a coherent vision & the incorrect allocation of resources is the Student Universal Support Ireland(SUSI) [11]

We believe this framework provides management with a tool to create a vision of the high quality system they want but also a system that is realistically aligned with their business needs.




[5] Source: Usability metrics for software components – Manuel F. Bertoa and Antonio Vallecillo


A Framework to Support Management Teams in Determining the Quality of their Information Systems.

22 Feb

This framework is designed to aid management teams in determining the quality of their Information Systems services and outputs. The purpose of a framework is to give a description of a complex entity or process. In this case our framework in figure 1 takes the form of a step by step process or checklist, which will allow the user to methodologically assess the quality of either a new or existing Information System. The framework consists of five main phases, each with their own individual attributes. The five phases are organisation, planning, evaluation/testing, implementation and review.
We developed this framework by posting blogs on the topic of IS Quality. We then brought our ideas together and discussed and analysed them in order to develop a comprehensive framework to measure IS Quality. We developed a blueprint of our potential framework by reviewing the issues we raised in our blog posts and is roughly based it on the PIRI model described by pm1083. This blueprint formed the basis of our final framework which is located below.
This framework is made up of five steps. It begins with organisation which is followed by planning, evaluate/testing. After this it then splits into two depending on the situation of the organisation whether the system is being newly implemented or if it is an existing system that the quality is being determined. We decided to follow method due to its clear structure and as we felt it fitted in well with what we were trying to achieve.

Figure 1


Explanation of the Framework

Culture – The organisational culture will be determined by the external environment, and this will include the language, the way of life of the people, and their work ethic. All of these factors must be compatible with the Information System. There are other problems that can arise due to differing cultures, such as the different formats in which the date can be displayed.
Alignment – The system must align with the business goals of the subjects. Even if the system is fully functional if it does not align with the business goals then the system may be deemed low quality as it will not provide what is required.
Organisational Context – It must take into account the organisational context for example some sectors may require some special characteristics of an information system or may require that certain things be left out of a system depending on an organisation individual situations
Cost Vs. Benefit – The overall possible benefits of the system must outweigh the possible costs of the system. While this is often very difficult to do before a system has been implemented it must be estimated to have an initial overall idea.
Inputs – Technical capability and technical hardware to be able to cope with the system must be present in the organisation. These have to be of a certain standard in order to be able to deal with the requirements of an IS. The data going into the system must be quality data. The inputs of the system will determine the quality of the outputs, and so, the overall information system. The quality of the overall system will be determined by its inputs and so it must be established that these are of high quality to ensure the resulting system will be of high quality.

Needed from system – This is what is required from the system for the organisation that is implementing the system. This again goes back to the central issue of what are the user requirements. This is what the output the system will have for the organisation and the overall goal they will have from implementing the system.
User requirements – These are the requirements that the user of the system needs in order to maximise the potential output of the system. All aspects of the system being implemented must be user friendly and also allow the user to realise the potential the system can offer. User requirements may differ as a range of variety of users may be using the system and have different or even conflicting requirements. These requirements must be established and balanced in this planning phase in order to ensure the system will be able to successfully deliver these requirements.
User expectations– This is what the user expects the system to be able to do. This relates to what a user wishes to gain from working with the system being designed. It relates to the work that they wish to achieve from the system and what they can achieve for the organisation. The user requirements must match the user expectations otherwise they may deem the system to be of a low quality.
Ease of use – When a system is being developed, the easier it is to use the better it is for the user of the system. The ease of use would allow a user get familiar with the system much faster and this in turn would prove more beneficial for the company and the output from the new system as fewer errors will occur when the users find the system easier to use.
Measurements-Measurements from the system must be established here. You cannot control something unless you can measure it and so the management team must decide how they are going to measure the system- what will they determine the system must output or how. They can then use these in the review stage to determine if these have been achieved. If these measurements have been achieved it will be easier for the organisation to determine the quality of the IS.

Evaluation/ Testing
Potential users – In order to ensure that the system is meeting the users’ requirements and expectation, it must be established who the users are.
Conduct tests- Select a sample of the current staff to evaluate the existing or new system. They should rate this in order to give the management team an idea of how it is currently being used and received.
Ease of use – The system must be usable for the users. If the users find the system too difficult to use then it is most likely they will not use the system to its full potential and so the quality of the system will not be realised resulting in a system which seems of lower quality.
Usefulness – The system must be useful to the organisation. If it is not useful then this again will impact on the user requirements. It will not be able to fulfil these requirements and so the management team would determine this as low quality.
Test system capabilities – The system should be tested for its capabilities to ensure it is up to the level to what is required by the organisation.

Ensure users are trained – Ensure that all users of the system have sufficient knowledge and training on the new system before it is fully implemented. This will reduce the number of errors made and ensure they are able to solve issues that come up themselves and so reduce the number of issues brought to management.
Implement in stages – It is important to implement the new system in stages to allow for the resolution of any unforeseen problems or errors that may occur during the implementation process. This will ensure a smooth transition from the old to the new system. It will also allow for the resolving of issues as they occur rather than have them build up.

Alignment – The system must align with the business requirements of the organisation. If it does not align it may not be providing the required information and if it does not provide the required information then most likely it will be determined as poor quality as mentioned that the users will often determine the quality of the system and will determine this by seeing if it matches their requirements as mentioned “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Alignment of user expectations & requirements – As mentioned above the user requirements will determine if the system is a success and so it is important to ensure that the users’ expectations and requirements align. Otherwise the user may view the system as not being of high quality if it cannot meet their expectations even if it is technically sound. This is important to consider in the review stage as it may be necessary to address this if these do not match.

Measurements – There must be clear measurable goals set out so that the management team will be able to assess the quality level of the IS. It is important to have established measurements in the planning phase so as to have something to be able to compare whether the aim of the system has been achieved. However as was mentioned measuring the quality of a system is very difficult and there is no one universal method.

Does it fulfil its function– This is one of the most important questions to ask when determining the quality of an IS. Often it will come down to whether the IS fulfils its function will be the deciding factor in determining the quality of an IS.

An Alternative Framework
This alternative framework is different in its inclusion of environment, its splitting up into the organisation and information system, the user then evaluating the system and the system then being reviewed by the organisation and the results then being feed back into the organisation and the information system. How it affects the organisation and the information system to produce an output of information is then to be evaluated by the users. This is then reviewed in such a way that the findings will feed back into the organisation, the information system.

Figure 2.


It is very important for a management team to be able to determine the quality of an information system as it is hugely important because of its effects on the organisation as a whole. This is because decision making is based on the information that will be produced from the Information System. This decision making can have massive and wide reaching effects on the organisation and its future success or failures.
We felt the above proposed frameworks in figure 1 and figure 2 will allow a management team to successfully determine the quality of an Information System in any organisation.  By providing an alternative framework this will allow a management team to choose which they feel will be most suitable to their own specific circumstances and allow them to feel that they have more control in the matter and so they may be more willing to use one of the proposed frameworks.
It is important to note that often these frameworks may seem incomplete on their own however once a company attempts to actually use the framework and they can input their own circumstances the framework will become much more usable and seem more complete.

Group 8

Deirdre O Leary
Patrick Meehan
Christopher Moloney
Rowland Njoku
Lawrence Ogboani

Information Systems FAIL!

10 Feb

 My series of blogs have been an attempt to perhaps look at the idea of a framework and the extraction of quality from an Information System from a different perspective & rather than approach it in an expansive way, that it could be better to have a pared down approach i.e: what do we really need & what would be a bonus if we can get it!

Unfortunately there are many examples of Information Systems failures however I have chosen an Irish example which I think represents a situation where the business needs were misunderstood and this in turn resulted in a low quality output.

The SUSI debacle came to light in October 2012, Student Universal Support Ireland, a new body which had been set up to centralise the student grants system which had previously been dealt with by individual Local Authorities had begun to flounder. Reports in the media of students having to drop out of college and being unable to pay for food,uncovered that thousands of students nationwide were still awaiting both tuition & maintenance grants. It was deemed a “bureaucratic nightmare” by a T.D in the Dáil. [1]

The system had been unable to cope with the amount of applications it received and had “underestimated the complexity of detail required from the students”[2]

As an applicant myself I was mystified that any time I rang to check on the status of my application I was dealt with promptly, unusual for an organisation which was under so much pressure, however I found through my research that in fact the helpline for SUSI had been outsourced & therefore the people on the phones were not involved in processing the applications, that to me is a huge misallocation of resources, the helpline was outsourced however they had not employed enough staff to process the applications! When looking at this example through the prism of IS Quality, does it really matter that the service level agreement with the outsourced company was producing the high quality required of the helpdesk when the Information System had clearly failed the end user.

I look forward to discussing these ideas with my blog group.

[1] James Bannon-

[2]Jacinta Stewart-

IS Quality and the Internet Revolution: The Arab Spring Uprising experience of 2011

10 Feb

The Arab Spring Uprising experience of 2011

Much has been talked about regarding Information System Quality, nonetheless, I would like to bring our attention to the role which Information System played in collaboration with computer aided Internet, and social networking in creating positive mobilisation for political and social change in the Arab world. I will support my view point with some relevant articles and the narratives from a scholarly publication in an international journal of communication (2011), bearing the title; “The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution”, published by Miriyam Aouragh of Oxford University, and Anne Alexnder of University of Cambridge.

As part of Information System Quality; the Internet, Facebook, and other Social Media Network were used to disseminate information and mobilise the people in the Arab nations to rise against dictatorship government, operations, social injustice, and human rights abuse in the region. It all started with Tunisia in 2010 when the president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to step down by angry protesters due to the fatal self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi a street vendor who was protesting his mistreatment by local officials. This protest in Tunisia motivated people in Egypt to take to the streets demanding political reform which in turn forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign his 30 years of dictatorship rule. In the same manner, the strongest and most stubborn leader Africa in history- Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya was ousted and killed in October 2011. This Arab protest had a chain reaction and thereby, spread through to Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia respectively.

According to the writers, it is important to separate the use of Internet as a tool by people                                               seeking to achieve change from below, and the Internet’s role as a space to articulate collective dissent. They suggested three main points; the need to go beyond the debate between utopian and dystopian perspective regarding the role of Internet in political change, a change from perspectives that isolate Internet from other media by reviewing the synergy between social media and satellite broadcasters during the uprising, and also, to have an understanding of the dialectical relationship between online and offline political action.

They tend to agree with Morozov’s (2011) argument that, a government threatened with revolution would just pull the plug on the Internet, but that wouldn’t stop the protest either, and cannot prevent the protesters from communicating. The writers disagree with what they call false polarization of utopian/dystopian views of the Internet, rather they accept that  Internet is a product of imperialist and capitalist logics, and a thing that millions use in their efforts to resist those logics. They propose a dialectical relationship between online and offline political action. They finally supported their argument with a quote from Lenin that, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Blog Egypt protest 2011

Egyptians celebrate after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military at Tahrir Square on 11 February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra/PA Images)

To conclude on the above episode, I agree and disagree with some of the views expressed in the paper. I agree that Internet alone cannot mobilise people without the active presence of the activists and the folks who stormed the streets of Cairo Egypt. On the other hand, I disagree with the quote from Morozov (2011) as stated above. If any government pulls the plug of the Internet, they will automatically disable the flow of communication through the Internet, and that will create a huge impact in disrupting all plans towards action. It makes big news whenever America observes that Internet-Hackers have infiltrated their national or military classified documents through the Internet of course. Finally, I could recollect that during the revolution of 2011 in Egypt, it was reported that mobilisation of the folks to rise against the 30 years of dictatorship by Hosni Mubarak started with the Facebook. Egyptians responded to that call throughout the whole world, and the effect was disastrous to Mubarak and his allies.  The dismantle of Mubarak’s throne was a display of the good qualities Information systems can deliver.


  1. AOURAGH, M. Oxford University; ALEXANDER, A. University of Cambridge: The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution.

International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), Feature 1344-1358 1932–8036/2011FEA1344

Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing

10 Feb

Our human impulses are both sources for an solvers of random behaviour , chaotic order and clean representation. For organisations trying to measure what is happening online is still often unclear, as an individual mix of human and computational logic failures. What is curious about the relationship between organic and circuit based thoughts and actions is that the desire to overcome our own deficiencies and extend our reach leaves us vulnerable to the weaknesses of computing logic.  On a societal level this leaves many questions. For organisational governance it poses the question: should we be trusting our own judgement or should we ‘outsource it to machines’?

The #bigpaper example given in the previous post would to many have seemed a woefully creative and/or academic exercise. Merely to organise rewteeted material, who applauds a workflow which includes?:

  • Scrolling ones own collection of Tweets;
  • Copying a body of tweets into a word document;
  • Printing off that word document;
    • Going to a public environment;
    • Emailing it to the present peer given failure to bring wallet;
    • Printing the document and waiting for it to be printed;
  • Cutting the document into ‘Tweet sized chunks’ to include only image and message (trying to avoid cutting too close);
  • Reading each tweet again, pushing thematically each tweet into an appropriately themed pile;
  • Finding a table and pushing Tweets evenly across 2D plane to try and balance contexts and relationships;
  • Photographing Tweets both as a population, localised and at an angle;
  • Packing away Tweets into representative piles;
  • Examining photos (not nearly enough definition, repeat process with higher resolution);
  • Unpack Tweet piles and rearrange;
  • This time with improved iterative reordering of Tweets;
  • Include token signposting to provide order and visual signposting;
  • Photograph again;
  • Repack again.

Well done having the strength to get past that unexciting workflow!

Why did this need doing, let alone summarizing? Well firstly, when considering BIS, its important to have empathy concerning processes and the people that were/are confined with onerous, repetitive tasks (much in the same way with which a pilgrimage’s value comes from the journey as opposed to the destination). Secondly, it provides direct perspective concerning functions, challenging habits, providing insights and parallels for BIS environments. Thirdly, it provides the hunger for change and direction concerning what priorities and stages a solution should have.

The screencast in the other blog highlighted through photographic analogy informatics weaknesses concerning technology and processes and (seemingly) natural individual and organisational limiting factors (which may still exist as Big Data’s promises start to mature (but which hopefully appropriate BIS approaches would be able to mitigate)).

However, the frustration highlighted above downplays the fact that there were gains from using physical approaches (consideration time, treating information as a durable good and not a disposable resource). To reconcile these seemingly opposable approaches it is best to search for solutions which help to automate functions and logic steps (in a fully digital context, robots tooled with scissors are not quite within commercial reach…).

One of the challenges to implement functionality for ordering my material in a sophisticated way is that machines and computers are only pragmatically capable of operating within the functions trained by them. When arranging Tweets on a surface I had many complex and competing deliberations, which I either made with little effort (because the solution was clear) or considerable thought (because of ambiguities, complexity or too many choices). It is possible for computers to mimic these choices, let alone provide ones resembling (or improving upon!) human decision making was highlighted cleanly by Melanie Mitchell in the book Complexity: A Guided Tour:

Easy Things Are Hard
The other day I said to my eight-year-old son, “Jake, please put your socks on.” He responded by putting them on his head. “See, I put my socks on!” He thought this was hilarious. I, on the other hand, realized that his antics illustrated a deep truth about the difference between humans and computers.

The “socks on head” joke was funny (at least to an eight-year-old) because it violates something we all know is true: even though most statements in human language are, in principle, ambiguous, when you say something to another person, they almost always know what you mean.

Melanie Mitchell compared this human ease for distinction and interpretation with supposedly ‘state of the art spam filters’ which struggle to interpret V!a&®@ as spammer trying to vend. This computational challenge was expressed in terms of a computer being able to observe a pattern and then make the correct inference if the answer was not initially clear. To understand how much better computers can understand and solve analogies Mitchell worked for the AI researcher, Douglas Hofstadter on the “Copycat” program. This involved providing an example letter pattern jump and giving the computer exercises to make inferences. For example logic challenges could include:

“Consider the following problem: if abc changes to abd, what is the analogous change to ijk? Most people describe the change as something
like “Replace the rightmost letter by its alphabetic successor,” and answer ijl. But clearly there are many other possible answers, among them:

• ijd (“Replace the rightmost letter by a d”—similar to Jake putting his socks “on”)

• ijk (“Replace all c’s by d’s; there are no c’s in ijk”), and

• abd (“Replace any string by abd”).

An appropriate mathematical solution was found, involving a slipnet (network of concepts), a workspace (for the letters to reside), codelets (agents which explore possibilities) and temperature (a measure of organisation and control degree of randomness which codelets operated). Like performance management in the real world, the Copycat program had to identify the options, make an informed understanding as to how the decisions would be different and make a commttment.

Mitchell referred to a point earlier in the book, considering the activities of ants (insects which are dumb in isolation but which hold significant levels of intelligence once they reach a certain volume). Whilst ants would normally go for the most obvious food source (the place the other ants were going to or the direction returning ants with food were returning from) there would be a normal deviation involving ants taking new courses. This provides a unconscious balance between the short term expediency for food with longer term opportunities for sustainable food sources.

Screenshot from 2013-02-11 00:39:38

Identifying and implementing logical and mechanical solutions for organising social media paths do take time. However, they can pay dividends if the sheer cost of not automating functions exceeds the cost of either:

  • Outsourcing that functionality,
  • Buying an off the shelf solution,
  • Tinkering/customizing with available solutions,
  • Designing and implementing specific solutions.

To give a practical example, an analysis was taken of a recent Guardian article on the UK’s new spare bedroom tax for those on welfare and its corresponding 100 posts. Using a demo for a keywords text extractor  it was possible to create a breakdown of key terms for the article and each post. Entered into an excel spreadsheet, the exercise became more onerous than the Twitter arrangements. Although technically sifting through appropriate and inappropriate keyword solutions, the comments in isolation created variances that the tool was not going to deal with. The keyword list exceeded the Twitter population in terms of volume and diversity (this is partly because of the lack of a word limit), especially when considering duplicates. Here is one example covering taxes and benefits:

tax 11
tax.It 1
taxes 4
poll tax 2
Poll Tax 1
council tax 6
annual council tax 1
bedroom tax 14
new bedroom tax 1
extra bewdroom tax 1
percent beedroom tax 1
housing tax 1
Negligence Tax 1
window tax 2
tax avoidance schemes 1
tax planning rules 1
income/ benefits 1
pay/benefits 1
benefits 2
benefit 1
tax credits 2
council tax benefit 1
Employment Support Allowance 1
government pay 1
government assistance 1
Work Programme 2
programmes 1
Incapacity Benefit 0
basic benefit 1
Discretionary housing payments 1
Discretionary Housing Payment 1
housing benefit 6
Housing Benefit 2
HB 4
brand new HB 1
PIP conversion 1
decision 1
benefits measure 1
home allowances 1

Aggregating seperate analyses introduced problems in regards to multiple permutations from accidental or deliberate erring from standard explanation, emphasis, plural/singularity or spelling. Given that the process used or the tools analysis does not reconcile this we end up with upper case and lower case keywords being separate and descriptors and terms being welded together. In addition, parent child relationships between terms or titles do not appear strong (perhaps through conservatism of the software that could be tweaked). Terms such as coalition or Liberals are not carried or captured with cultural sensitivity (the UK’s government in this instance).

Copying and then breaking down the keywords into manageable or personalized themes or categories was onerous (although this is partly a lack of tools for reprocessing). Reordering the material takes time on a human level (although ironically resembling the process of disk defragmenting, see image of extracted keywords with markers to post author below after part of the keywords were moved to another excel sheet for clarity).

Screenshot from 2013-02-11 01:34:33

To capture the whole chain of appropriate keywords using this technique although imperfect (it is like considering the world as if it is a grain of sand and then commencing an audit of the universe). It is amazing however examining what keyword extraction is able to offer for just one discussion thread in terms of verbal emphases, especially when related to information, point, emphasis and debate (particularly when sources such as the Guardian offer quantifiable recommend numbers).

The keywords extracted cover the individual topic pretty comprehensively. Once interpreted effectively, especially with terms synthesized and broke down to base meaning and interaction it is capable of providing strong specialised meaning. At a rule base level once that sophistication point is reached scalable and sophisticated analysis, communications and campaigning is possible. As alluding to in my previous post, it is possible to map for solutions problems and issues. In many ways sentiment analysis is already offering this (although is still prone to errors similar to explained above). Getting to a more meanings based level that takes in human and computing errors would provide a clearer understanding regarding the topic (although it would be more consistent using personal judgement for many of the keyword themes in this example, given the cleaning required to counter the volume of computing keywords).

Perhaps it is apt to highlight the work of Joseph Weizenbaum, a member of GE’s team in 1955 to build the first the first computer system dedicated to banking operations and whose technical contributions includes the list processing system SLIP and the natural language understanding program ELIZA, which was an important development in artificial intelligence.

“…Named for the heroine of My Fair Lady, ELIZA was perhaps the first instance of what today is known as a chatterbot program. Specifically, the ELIZA program simulated a conversation between a patient and a psychotherapist by using a person’s responses to shape the computer’s replies. Weizenbaum was shocked to discover that many users were taking his program seriously and were opening their hearts to it. The experience prompted him to think philosophically about the implications of artificial intelligence, and, later, to become a critic of it.

In 1976, he authored Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, in which he displayed ambivalence toward computer technology and warned against giving machines the responsibility for making genuinely human choices. Specifically, Weizenbaum argued that it was not just wrong but dangerous and, in some cases, immoral to assume that computers would be able to do anything given enough processing power and clever programming.

“No other organism, and certainly no computer, can be made to confront genuine human problems in human terms,” he wrote.”

In order to circumnavigate historic failures of intelligent comprehension in computing logic the commercial providers online stuck to using “Recommended by…” algorithms comprising of aggregate or contextual navigation and consumption patterns. Perhaps, rather than reinforcing our human approaches online, perhaps we have become more like the ants?

Although the keyword analysis provided a more simple and one off demonstration, one should not discount the value of more complex and custom built analyses. However, the concerns regarding the processes and stages of a human analysis disappear once the reality of having to automate such functions kick in. There are tradeoffs concerning subtlety. For BIS approaches to performance management it is dangerous to assume that buying a machine solves the problems of the human functionality for some cost. Without knowing what is under the hood or at a bare minimum what are the qwerks then there is a risk that complexity will create unknown risks to organisational governance.


Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change Series

  1. Introduction;
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Reimagine and Expand;
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue;
  5. Nobody Will Notice The Slow Death of Dissmeination, They Will Be Too Busy Listening;
  6. The frictions of competition and cooperation to strategic thinking;
  7. The Hot and Cold Wars: Relationships and conflicts between big and small, propriety and open source.


If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

Banking 24/7

10 Feb

In this blog & in an attempt to highlight my believe that IS frameworks should be more Industry specific, I will focus here on a particular industry which I feel demonstrates the viability of a ranking system of importance (as mentioned in my first blog- Context is King) when constructing a framework which will ensure the provision of outputs of high quality from the Information System.

In this age of technology, the efficiency & speed of an Information System is most likely a measure of quality for most organisations seeking to compete. These expectations are largely due to the amazing advances there have been in technology & the huge amounts of capital being invested by organisations in Information Systems. However it is accepted that the main aim of an Information System is to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of a process. The term ‘Real Time’ has entered the fold, particularly in the banking industry & also in the provision of Business Intelligence applications.

Internet Banking in particular could not function without real time updating of data, consider the implications of a delay in that information system, the chaos that could be caused if it was possible to withdraw cash from an ATM & due to a delay on the system that amended balance would not be recorded instantaneously & therefore the transaction could be attempted over & over before the system recognises that the account is in fact empty. It would be unfathomable that due to delays in processing transactions that billions could be lost.

But then of course data security would also be of huge concern, the loss of a customers’ data or ease of hack-ability to the sensitive information contained in an Information System would also be disastrous. We saw this with the Ulster Bank fiasco, what was a technical glitch triggered by a software upgrade has cost the bank millions & inconvenienced thousands of customers, the issue might have been an IT problem but it had an immediate effect on the IS, the information was now unreliable and therefore unusable.

This incident highlights the emphasis which must be placed on ensuring that the quality of what is seen as the more important elements of the information system are maintained at all cost and its seems logical that directing resources into achieving this will affect the quality of other elements of the IS such as ease of use which could be deemed less important due to its’ overall impact on the organisation.

Information Systems Quality – Design

10 Feb

The Future of Design:

As the world is becoming more computerised the need for more and more systems will grow. The design process needs to evolve as new systems and mediums are developed. Ten years ago the idea of using tablet devices and the complexity of our smartphones was only a thing of science fiction and Palo Alto research labs (PARC). The internet is now at the fingertips of over a billion people and growing by millions every day. It is only in the last few years that Africa has been wired for high speed internet, who knows what these new users will create. The range of applications is also growing, from specialised weapon systems to everyday smart phones and gaming consoles.  There is a growing need to match the right systems to the right users. There is also a growing degree of expertise, users are more selective than they used to be and more understanding of what they are buying. The growth of the gaming industry into the mainstream has led to a need for more interactive or fun experiences, users no longer like the traditional text based approach.

Due to all of these advances in the marketplace the need for a competitive edge will led to new design features. Here are a few many experts believe will be used;

  • Distributed Systems: The development of innovative user interfaces is increasing access to distributed information sources. People ‘surfing’ the net are no longer just programmers looking for interesting pieces of code.
  • Multimedia Interfaces: Text is still the most significant form of interaction with computer systems. Increasingly, however, we have the problem of integrating it into graphical, video and audio information sources. The technology is relatively straightforward, the design is not.
  • Advanced Operating Systems: Many of the changes described above are being driven by changes in the underlying computer architecture. Increasing demands are made upon processing resources by graphical and multimedia styles of interaction. [1]
  • HCI Development Environments: On top of the new generations of operating systems, there are new generations of interface development software. Many of these environments extend the graphical interaction techniques of the Apple desktop to the construction of the interface itself. For perhaps the first time, users may be able to customise their working environment. This creates opportunities but also carries high risks if many different users must all operate the same application at different times.


Other Sources:




Context is King

10 Feb

As I am entering the arena quite late & having read the comprehensive blogs which have been written by my colleagues on IS quality, my observation as I and my group move towards constructing a framework is the necessity of a ranking system of importance in terms of what the organisation requires from the Information System. If as reported between 50- 80% of Information systems are failing, perhaps it is due to trying to tick every box & trying to meet every need of the organisation. Perhaps it is necessary to focus on achieving higher quality from certain outputs/needs & a lower quality from others.

The use of resources when implementing a new IS system especially in these economic times must be paramount. There seems to be a general consensus in society & in what is a most definite shift in attitude from the  Celtic Tiger era that it is no longer necessary to have it all.

In terms of an Information system what does that mean? Well it means being realistic, assessing your business needs, and recognising that an Information System can bring huge advantages to your organisation while also recognising that to successfully implement an IS you will need to decide what really matters to you, For example on a scale of 1-10: If your business need is speed then  that ranks number 1 & if your system operates on an Intranet then having very secure data is most likely not a major concern and therefore ranks 10 and therefore could be seen as a bonus if you can achieve data security but in reality it is not a measure of quality for your IS.

The needs of organisations differ industry wide and I feel what is lacking in the frameworks which have been presented to us all in class in the last few weeks is the need for context, is it really possible to construct a framework which can be applied to all Information Systems, regardless of Who the organisation are, What they want from the information system and What can realistically be achieved. Could this be part of the issue with the high failure rate of Information Systems that in an attempt to gratify every need we are aiming too high & in a situation akin to Business Process Reengineering while the reward might be great perhaps the risks are too high.

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