Information management for housing maintenance : a systemic view
This thesis discusses an action-research (AR) project which investigated the problem of information management for housing maintenance. The research commenced with the intention of developing an expert system for housing maintenance management. The first step in this process is to understand the environment and user requirements, and it was this quest for understanding which subsequently became the focus for the research. A systemic approach was adopted to re-examine the problem situation holistically, as opposed to the more traditional reductionist view. Checkland's softsystems methodology (SSM) provided the framework for systematic enquiry. SSM offers an approach which can be used for accurate problem recognition and definition in messy, ill-structured and often complex human activity systems. The necessity for accurate and appropriate problem identification techniques when attempting to manage information was crucial in the shaping of this project. Upon reflection, the project consisted of five clearly defined phases which emerged in response to events and opportunities faced by the researcher. These phases can be categorised as either 'diagnostic' or 'therapeutic' and each consisted of a cyclical process of enquiry. This thesis comprises four parts which mirror this cyclical learning process in each phase of the AR. Part 1, Problem Recognition, deals with the subject matter and introduces the conceptual framework used for Information System (IS) analysis. Part 2, Action Planning, details the research approach and methodology; and the development of the research strategy, design and choice of data collection techniques. Part 3, Action Taking, presents the fieldwork and describes the AR data collection and analysis process. Part 4, Evaluation, provides a critical review of the research approach, details the research contribution and a methodological reevaluation. The research contribution is considered in three areas, (a) specific substantive contribution to an understanding of housing management information systems, (b) theoretical contribution to an understanding of a soft-systems approach to participative IS analysis and evaluation, and, remembering the origins of the study (c) the utility and immediate benefits to housing maintenance practice. These combine in the creation of a participative methodology and integrated framework to identify information requirements for housing maintenance management. The re-evaluation and research review identifies how AR and SSM could be developed by utilizing aspects of action learning.