Sometimes the BA will need to take various and at times conflicting views into consideration. Checkland’s Soft System Methodology (SSM) teaches us to look beyond the traditional ‘hard’ view in process and system development. It takes into account that there will be differences of opinion about the nature of many problems and their solutions. These differences of ‘perspective’ are often overlooked, misunderstood or ignored in the haste to get started on the project.

The Soft System Methodology (SSM) offers a useful framework for defining and analysing business perspectives – CATWOE (Checkland & Scholes 1990). The SSM proposes several criteria that should be specified to ensure that a given root definition is comprehensive. The CATWOE mnemonic:

Clients – Who are the beneficiaries or victims of this particular system? Who would benefit or suffer from its operations?

Actors – Who are responsible for implementing this system? Who would carry out the activities which make this system work?

Transformation – What transformation does this system bring about? What are the inputs and what transformation do they go through to become the outputs?

Worldview – What particular worldview justifies the existence of this system? What point of view makes this system meaningful?

Owner – Who has the authority to abolish this system or change its measures of performance?

Environmental constraints – Which external constraints does this system take as a given?

This form of analysis clarifies what the user of the methodology is trying to achieve. By explicitly acknowledging these perspectives, the user of the methodology is forced to consider the impact of any proposed changes on the people involved.

SSM is thought in the BCS Business Analysis Practice Core Module.

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