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Title: Requirements Dilemma
Author: Harris, Howard J.
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2006
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Knowing ‘what’ to build is an integral part of an Information System Development, and it is generally understood that this, which is known as Requirements, is achievable through a process of understanding, communication and management. It is currently maintained by the Requirements theorists that successful system design clarifies the interrelations between information and its representations. However, this belief can be shown to be based on flawed assumptions, as there are persistent reports of failures, indicating that there is a gap between the theory and the practice, and that this gap needs to be bridged. A year long in-depth case study of a project group, starting with their strategy announcement and ending with the commissioning system hand-over meeting, followed the group in their ‘doing’ of the Requirements. These mundane meetings were recorded and transcribed, forming a detailed data set of ‘what-is-done’ and ‘how-it-is-done’. The developed research approach adhesively maintained the practical situation, aiming to investigate and make sense of the here-and-now actions of the scoping and defining processes that were at work. The results of the investigation led the researcher to question previous beliefs and assumptions in Requirements, because of ambiguities that were uncovered, also because there was no sufficiently distinct process found that could assuredly be labelled as Requirements. This phenomenon evoked further questioning of “how strange?”, which triggered the testing of the validity of the Requirements theory. The second stage adapted an analysis framework on decision-making in order to reveal a causal connection between the actions found in the ‘doing’ and in the stocks of knowledge that form the Requirements theory. This phase analysed the operationalization of the theory to examine its commensurate, incommensurate and defective activities. The analysis revealed the existence of other dominant processes that affect the Requirements theory, leaving it underdetermined, with no true causal connections that can be established. This led to the inevitable conclusion that the current Information Systems thinking on Requirements is on the horns of a dilemma without any prospective resolution, because of the elliptical misalignment between the theoretical and the empirical worlds.
Supervisor: Fitzgerald, G. Sponsor: EPSRC research grant number 00302238
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Management ; Administration ; Information science ; Public administration ; Computer software ; Information theory ; Applications of computer science ; Methods and equipment, general