Soft Systems Methodology

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Checkland's Soft-Systems Methodology for an IT project

Checkland's Soft-Systems Methodology for an IT project


Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) mainly deals with the development of social or real life systems. This methodology best suit where the problem is not clearly identified or the goals cannot be pre specified. SSM compares the model of the world as we see it, to the model of world as we would like it to become.

The essay critically analyses SSM. The major systems development methodology under consideration, i.e. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is compared with other methodologies, such as Waterfall development approach, SDLC and prototyping. SSM is described with the help of its application to a real world case, taken from my personal experience, i.e.; the case of FastWheel Limited Bicycle Rental Company.

FastWheel Limited Bicycle Rental Company required improving the data management and transaction processing system by introducing computing technologies. Earlier, the company relied on manual data entry and transaction processing. However, as the company grew in its business operations, the manual processes became problematic for the employees to execute. Also, the manual processing led to serious lacks, degrading the performance of entire system. Hence, the company considered SSM for developing the computerized infrastructure for execution of data management and transaction processing tasks.

Rest of the essay is organized as follows: The discussion section provides the critical analysis of the SSM, and explains the working of model by describing each of the stages. Next, the comparison is made in between SSM and two well known system development methodologies; Prototyping and System Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Applications of SSM to real life cases are discussed before the concluding remarks.


The basis of SSM is the traditional system's theory, according to which the system at least requires an input, an output, and a process. Other important terms for the description of the system include boundary and environment of the system. The boundary is defined as the scope of the system, while environment is anything outside the boundary. The system must have to interact with the environment, and therefore it should be able to adapt with the environmental changes.

It has always been difficult to understand and explain the working and scope of large and complex systems. Systems thinking provide the approach to view at the system from various perspectives. While looking at the whole system at once, scale is much wider, and the relationships between all the system's components may become clear easily. However, the older system development methodologies used to split up the development stage. For example, the waterfall model used well defined and pre specified path for the system development; hence the approach is considered as goal centric. Being goal centric may be useful at some instances, but such approaches may bring the development process into inflexible situations. The inflexibility of approach may distort the overall goal of development process and some important concepts or may be missed.

The system thinking supports the human component significantly. Dealing with human component is the trickiest part of the ...
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