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Soft systems methodology (SSM)

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theology
Wordcount: 2009 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The report states that the author (one of the consultants) uses the Soft systems methodology (SSM) tools and techniques to get the analysis and find the recommendations at the case study. As it is known, a SSM IS used at the analysis stage of developing an information system. SSM is an approach for dealing with messy or ill-structured problematic situations that are involving the human activity. Before beginning the use a SSM to analysis and modeling the case study problem situation, it must be known that this case study is about the Births, Deaths, and Marriages at the Salford Council. At this case study, the SSM can be considered an appropriate methodology to use, whose contents (details are given below) are that:

  • An explanation of the reason that the SSM is used in this case study.
  • A rich picture for the context and problem situation.
  • Two root definitions for two different relevant systems.
  • A conceptual model for one of the root definition.
  • A comparison of the rich picture and conceptual models.
  • A set of recommendations for change that address the problem situation.


There are enough reasons support that to provide a SSM for this case study as an appropriate methodology. Soft Systems Methodology attempts to foster learning and appreciation of the problem situation between the group of stakeholders rather than set out to solve a pre-defined problem (.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk). Firstly, the case study requires the consultants use the information (given in the case study) to analysis and modeling problem situation, meanwhile, the SSM refers to problem situations rather than problems. Secondly, the CATWOE tools can help the consultant to prepare the root definitions of relevant systems. Furthermore, this case study is related to the complex human activity, such the births, deaths and marriages. However, a SSM is much harder to model human activity systems. Fourthly, SSM aids analysis rather than design and implementation, as rich pictures are largely designed to be a communication tools. Lastly, the seven steps can help the analyst to master the case study problem situations well.

There are also other reasons for the consultants to choose a SSM to do with this case, for example, SSM can work both the real world activities and the system thinks about the real world, the SSM’s backtracking is possible, and so on. These advantages would help the consultants to analysis and modeling the problem situation well for this case study.

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Rich picture for the context and problem situation

As it is known that, rich pictures are largely designed to be communication tools, to increase the understanding of the analyst and problem owner. The rich pictures are the first step in the system design process. Rich pictures used to show people, their roles, key interactions, problems and concerns. The rich pictures of Salford Council Case Study can be shown like bellowing:

Two different root definitions for two different relevant systems

A root definition is a short textual description that captures the nature of the system, meanwhile root definitions are used in both SSM and Multiview. Before drawing the root definitions, the people must make the knowledge of CATWOE, because the CATWOE mnemonic helps produce root definitions. The CATWOE can be interpreted as the Client, Actor, Transformation, Weltanschauung, Owner, and the Environment. The bellowing contents would introduce two root definitions of two different relevant systems for this case study:



ACTOR : Staff member

TRANSFORMATION : Query or copy the BDM information(may including the Family History)

WELTANSCHAUUNG : I’ve pay my taxes and the payment so I have the right to use it

OWNER : ‘The system’ or the BDM Officer


A BDM Office is a place that I get the government service by the Staff member who works at the BDM Office. I have the right to do it because I make the payment for this service. Meanwhile, this system make a possible that I can get the accurate and timely BDM information one time for engage with the government service.

The Staff Member

CLIENT : Clients


TRANSFORMATION : Query or copy the BDM information(may including the Family History) (probably by specialized equipments, public service

WELTANSCHAUUNG : It is important to enable the provision of government services to the client as soon as possible, it is responsible to service the accurate information

OWNER : The BDM Officer


The BDM Office is a system that I can service enough BDM or family history information for as many as clients as soon as possible. I do the work with the specialized equipment (electronic equipments, such as the computer, printer, and so n). The organization decisions are made by the BDM Officer of the the Salford Council Officer.

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A conceptual model for one of the root definition

The definition of a conceptual is that descriptive model of a system based on qualitative assumptions about its elements, their interrelationships, and system boundaries. Conceptual models model the required activities, as well as show activities are related to others and how the activities should be arranged and linked. The conceptual models have four steps that support to serve these three purposes:

  • It is essential element in the architects’ design activities;
  • It is medium of communication between architects and clients to enable the right design to be selected;
  • It is a set of instructions to the builders.

Returning to the case study used for the obvious purpose in two sections, the main activities in the BDM would be shown bellowing through the conceptual models.

The comparison of the rich picture and conceptual model

The rich picture and conceptual models are complementary in a SSM, they plays the important roles in SSM and Multiview at the same time. They can provide a completed analysis of a system, meanwhile, they can help we to model the case study’s problem situation.

  • The common grounds between rich pictures and conceptual:
    1. They are both a technique and tool for a SSM, and they both use to analysis a case study.
    2. They are both concluded in the modeling techniques’ category – Business modeling oriented techniques.
    3. They both show the human activities of the case study. For example the major people who related to the case study.
  • The differences between the rich pictures and conceptual models:
    1. Comparing rich pictures and conceptual models, it can be seen that the rich picture is more useful to prove a way of getting the users to talk about the problem situations. The rich pictures give more details for the case study, and provides the clearly relationships among the Staff Members and the Clients and the managers.
    2. Comparing these two things, it can be said that the conceptual give a bare facts for the human activities processes in the case study.
    3. The conceptual models come from the root definitions, and the root definitions come from the rich picture.

Comparing the rich picture and the conceptual modes in this case study, we can know that if many people get the BDM services not in the peak time, that will decreases the conflict between the Client and the Staff Members. Also, if the BDM Office can make a solution for the problem of servicing the Clients themselves not allow their relatives or friends just one kind of information in one time, which would make the changes the problem situation. In addition, if the staff members can provide an answer or make an email for the telephone callers when client s phone to make an appointment with the officer or the visitors ask the family history, which would bring the changes for the problem situation. Finally, if the BDM Office provide the Online Payment for the clients and use the current technology, it would face the changes, such as the email to communication with the clients. However, there are some other possible changes for this case study.

A set of recommendations for change that address the problem situation

  • The BDM Office release from the restricted use of the current technology (on-line service, etc.) and assimilate the experiences of the Salford Council main offices.
  • As the case study’s proposals said that the clients can engage with the government just one time during this particular event (life event with BDM events) and the consultants work as a partner in the sections of the public sectors.
  • Incensement of email communication in the call center to help the staff member to solve the problems for the telephone callers. In addition, the BDM Officer should provide a schedule of the officer for the staffs who can give an answer for a phone caller timely and do not need to wait the answers of an appointment.
  • The consultants try their best to persuade the two managers who has the conservative views for the changes of the BDM Office to accept the changes by the benefits the changes bring.
  • The staff members list some benefits (not need wait for a lone time, more details data, etc.) of the clients come to the BDM Office to get the services for avoiding the peak time.

Except above recommendations for change that address the problem situation, a training of the staff members to master the new technology and adapt the new environment (changes). Although these changes would increase the cost, they are suitable to deal with the current problems (conflict, long queues, staff members’ leave, etc.) and the future benefits are very optimistic for the BDM Office. As we known that the 21st century is a technology society, so the management of BDM Office to try the best to get accepts the changes to satisfy the clients’ needs in this case study.


In general, this report according to the information that case study provides analysis and modeling the problem situation by using the SSM techniques and tools. The report’s content comprises the explanation of the reasons of why a SSM is suitable for this case study, a rich picture, two root definitions, a conceptual model, a comparison of the rich picture and conceptual model, and recommendations for the changes that address the problem situation. Through the use of SSM in this case study, it can be seen that a SSM is useful for a system’s analysis. A SSM can help the system managers to analysis a system well, so that they can develop a system well.


  1. Conceptual model definition Copyright©2010 BusinessDictionary.com. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited



  2. SpringerLink – Journal article



  3. <Information Systems Development>——-Methodologies, techniques&tools

    4th Edition David Avison Guy Fitzgerald

  4. Soft Systems Methodology a-z site index | about the IfM | the Institute for Manufacturing is a part of the Department of Engineerin



  5. Rich Pictures




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