SABI 2004: Business Systems -- Environmental Contexts (July 8, 2004, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

[Östlund & Révay] | [Metcalf] | [Kim] | [Brandt, Révay & Wennberg] | [Tugbiyele]


Five papers have been clustered into a theme of "Business Systems -- Environmental Contexts". The authors will be each be asked to initiate discussions, each adding incrementally to the predecessors, in the 120-minute session

"Systems Thinking in the Virtual Realm: Bringing Focus to the Human Activity System with VR Technology -- Martin Östlund & Péter Révay

Virtual Reality (VR) is a technological approach that holds great promise in the creation of human-centred information and communication services. With the use of (computer) technology to implement a human activity system, there is always the risk that the human actor, sometimes by technological necessity, other times by lack of perspective, is hidden and/or distorted by the abstractions and simplifications imposed by a mechanistically oriented technology. One of the virtues of VR is that it has the potential to allow the underlying human activity system to become transparent in the final implementation.

This proposition is examined during the development of The VR-tual Pharmacy application. The VR-tual Pharmacy is an on-going Virtual Reality project, whose aim is to explore the benefits of using Virtual Reality technology for communicating pharmaceutical information. The project is the result of a collaborative effort involving Kalmar e-Health Institute, Kalmar VR Institute and the Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies - Apoteket AB. The project is practical in its approach and includes the design and implementation of VR-based services. Systems thinking is put to use not only to drive the development process, but also to examine the same process, and to analyse the resulting system from a meta-perspective.

The philosophical base for the project is derived from systems theoretical principles, emphasizing holistic, systemic properties. Moreover, Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is used to provide the methodological framework, underlining the ambition to highlight the soft system characteristics of the project. Special attention is afforded to the specific properties of VR technology in its representation of human actors and their interactions in the information space.

Keywords: Systems Thinking, Soft Systems Methodology, Virtual Reality

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"Implements and Images: The Making of Social Systems" -- Gary Metcalf

The founders of what we know as the systems movement, and of the organization which has become the International Society for Systems Science (ISSS), were concerned about overcoming a number of barriers and limitations. Many of them had to do with the ways that science and research were approached, arguing for more holistic understandings that accounted for connections and relationships, and for properties such as emergence. Specifically, they searched for ways to bridge increasingly fragmented disciplines of study. But they also expressed at least an equal concern for "improving the human condition."

Pervasive human questions, which frame our condition, would seem to include those of what we know and how we know it - but also, "what should we do?" Once we know that, the problem still lingers, "How do we accomplish it?"

Answers to human dilemmas from within the systems movement have tended to focus on issues of ethics, and of power. This paper will argue that in order even to frame the questions correctly, we need to explore much, much deeper in our existence, and to step much further back as a beginning.

The earliest artifacts of humans now date back, potentially, as much as 100,000 years. They can be thought of as two types: (1) implements, including all the tools, pottery, clothing, etc. used in order to extend the physical abilities of humans, and (2) images, which first show up as the simplest etchings, and later as beautiful and apparently symbolic cave paintings and carvings. Our use of, and reliance on, implements forms the basis for human interactions with the "tangible" world. Our sensory and cognitive limitations have given rise to the need for symbolic representation, which forms the basis for human language and conceptualization. These are highly interdependent traits, though, in that our experiences of interaction in the world help to shape our images of it, while conceptualization is required in order to purposefully create things from tools to technology. The interplay of these traits has created a massive legacy of human experience, which is captured and shared in symbolic form. As individuals, we incorporate and perpetuate ideas and behaviors into concepts about "who we are," "where we fit," and "how things should be" - which in turn shape what we attend to, what we do, and how we interpret symbols and experiences.

Ultimately, our struggle is with basic issues such as prediction, control, belonging, meaning, and so on. These appear in different ways, but form consistent themes through social systems. Affecting the human condition in significant ways is going to require that we affect the traits that make a difference.

Key Words: metaphors, models, social systems, tools

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Peace-Prone Foreign Policy: Systems Analysis of Domestic-Regional Linkage" -- Sung Chull Kim

It is an important task for systems scientists to bridge the gap between domestic politics and regional or international relations. Despite various attempts to identify domestic factors affecting interstate relations, there has been no systematic study of the domestic-regional linkage. Systems sciences provide us with a conceptual scheme to discover not a simplistic relationship between the state and the region, but ways in which an individual country's regime structure and perceptional context constrain domestic political processes on specific regional issues. However, there is room for variation within such systemic constraints. Notably, systems sciences do not depreciate the value of the initiative role of actors, whether they are individuals, groups, or coalitions, in the dynamic processes of the system. A domestic coalition pursuing internationalization, compared to a coalition of backlash nationalism, favors the policy tendency of openness to and engagement with multilateral channels, while avoiding isolation and disengagement from neighbors. This coalition contributes to a peace-prone foreign policy and, in turn, to regional peace.

Key words: domestic coalition, systemic constraints, perceptional context, regime

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"System Thinking on Risk Analysis" -- Patrik Brandt, Péter Révay & Louise Wennberg

The word risk originates from the Italian word risicare which means to dare and from this point of view, risk is more of a choice than a fate. Risk is about the actions that we dare to take and these in turn depend on the freedom we have to make choices (Bernstein, 1998). It can also be defined as the possibility of harm or loss to any resource within an information system, which accentuate the importance of identifying the organisation's assets (Ramachandran, 2002).

The obvious fact that information is one of the most important asset within a company, results in that it is necessary to try to predict the risks that exists against these and consequently also against the organisation's goals and visions. It is impossible to identify all potential risks but a very good tool for identifying as many as possible and then assigning them appropriate protective measures, is the risk analysis.

Since many significant security processes are built upon risk analysis and also security planning, it is necessary that the analysis is accomplished in an accurate way. This meaning that factors in the inner and outer surrounding environment that could affect the final result also must be taken into consideration, e.g. different communication channels. Thus, a holistic perspective is necessary when performing a risk analysis but also when working with security issues in general.

Today, security solutions are often focused on technology and not on the system as a whole (Schneier, 2000) and considering that development and use of technology has lead us to think in terms of systems, we mean that this should hold for the information security area as well. Also the fact that the concept of wholeness is very important in information security and that general system theory is a general science of wholeness (v. Bertalanffy, 1969), makes us wonder: what could be more suitable to apply on security issues?

For that reason, we present some ideas for a modified risk analysis method in this paper, based upon an existing risk analysis used by the case study object The Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies, Apoteket AB. They has recently added two customer care centres to its organisation and as a result of this, also a number of communication channels that are integrated with different information sources that contains classified information, e.g. personal particulars. The ideas of a modified risk analysis could be used by customer care centre organisations using several communication channels. These ideas are influenced by general systems theory that has been combined with a method used to analyse information flows in organisations. We have studied the company's existing risk analysis method and in combination with qualitative data, e.g. interviews, we have some suggestions of a risk analysis that emphasises the holistic perspective and the relations between the different entities in the overall information system.

The suggested ideas will be reviewed together with the department of IT-security at Apoteket AB and after that tested within the organisation. It is noticeable that like all work with information security, the suggested method is a cyclic process that constantly develops and undergoes changes in relation to its dynamic context. Results and feedback from this implementation will be presented in forthcoming papers during 2004.

Keywords: risk analysis, information security, customer care centre, system theory, Apoteket AB.

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"The Mysterious Management of Urban Systems" -- Adejoke Tugbiyele

Important shifts are affecting people and spaces and how they will interact to form what we know as the urban environment. It has long been said that architecture will be need to become adaptive in order to manage the challenges that come from this interaction. Predictions now are beginning to transcend the self-imposed limits of the architect to also include the emerging importance of an increasing reliance on transparent information technology in managing the products and process. This may become a call for a paper-less urban version of the office process that has long stimulated organizational theorists. It was not dealt with very well in the office environment, as yet is not well articulated for the urban environment. It will be difference in the physicality of the urban place because buildings and constructions define much of the urban place and resulting urban spaces but yet the making of these is a very local business.

The building industry will learn to take greater advantage of the potentials offered by the age of information, but has a long way to go. Since there are so many fragmented stakeholders and it is difficult to involve each in a way that brings innovation and accountability into their work, the information age project manager will need to find ways to shift from controlling people to managing information. Architects could also help with this system, but probably in ways that are yet inconceivable. If it were to be a paperless process, it will eliminate aspects of what many participants rely on, including the architect. Each will need to find a way to formulate and relate to a holistic planning process that moves away from hierarchy and towards distributed responsibility and creativity. This introduces the potentials of the Knowledge Manager a.k.a. computer geeks at Microsoft and Goggle.

Knowledge Manager + Sub-Contracting = The Informed Building Process

Keywords: Knowledge Manager, Infoprenuer, urban systems, mysterious management

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