Systematic concept identification and evaluation for IT/business alignment

Costantini, Silvana; Hall, Jon G. and Rapanotti, Lucia (2017). Systematic concept identification and evaluation for IT/business alignment. Technical Report 2017/01; Department of Computing, The Open University.



In project management, initial requirements definition takes place in the front-end phase, where the uncertainties are highest and decisions have the biggest influence; this constitutes a considerable process risk, risk that can, however, be mitigated by ensuring that requirements are validated and understood by stakeholders before starting with the development of the solution. This research investigates approaches to the front-end phase of IT/business alignment projects which incorporate this type of risk mitigation. We use an initial exploratory case study to apply one such approach, Problem Oriented Engineering (POE). The case study is retrospective, applied to the front-end phase of an IT/business alignment project. The case study shows that POE can be applied to model all process steps in the real-life project, identifying the related relevant stakeholders and their involvement in the process. Specific validation points and their outcomes could also be modelled. Additionally, the case study demonstrated that problem diagrams can provide suitable models of concepts in their organisational context, with associated requirements to be satisfied. Although retrospective, the outcome of the pilot research is encouraging: POE gave an indication of when development risk was accumulated and the extent of related sunk costs when concepts were rejected by stakeholders. Future research should assess the extent POE models can be used in practice to allow stakeholders to understand better identified concepts, the rationale for their choice and their impact on the organisation. Our conclusion is that this type of analysis has the potential to become a powerful project management tool that can be applied to the front-end phase of project, with the purpose of systematising concept identification and evaluation, and in this way reducing development risk.

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