EDSIGCON Proceedings 2020

Virtual Conference, November 2020

Conference Highlights

2020 EDSIG Proceedings: Abstract Presentation

On Using the Work Systems Method in Teaching Systems Analysis and Design

Doncho Petkov
Eastern Connecticut State University


This short report summarizes the experience of the author in teaching the Work System Method (WSM) in the Systems Analysis and Design (SAD) course at ECSU. According to Alter (2006, 2013), WSM provides a rigorous but non-technical approach to any manager or business professional to visualize and analyse systems related problems and opportunities. I had the privilege of participating in past research on WSM (see reference list) and that informed this work.

The WSM was applied in the SAD course mainly in two ways:
As a sense making approach for complex IS implementation problems in SAD: Applying the questioning based on the steps of WSM process provides a coherent methodology and the rigor necessary for investigating how IS are used in organizations and to understand complex software project contexts.

As a first step in the analysis of the current system in IS development Projects: The WSM provides guidance for students in conducting a systemic investigation of the problem situation from a socio-technical point of view. Students were asked prior to 2015 to conduct a full WSM analysis of the business problem. More recently, they were instructed to produce only the WSM snapshot to capture the essential elements of the work system for which a project is developed (for a justification see also Alter (2020)). The latter is sufficient for more simple projects. The WSM helps the students in understanding the functionality of the system. The work practices (or processes) are the most important element of the WSM snapshot for a problem. They lead directly to the formulation of the use cases for the project, a task made easier by developing first a WSM snapshot.

The experience in using WSM in SAD demonstrates that the WSM analysis allows students to transition smoothly to the technical aspects of systems modeling on the basis of better understanding of the problem and improves their learning of SAD.


Alter, S. (2006). The Work System Method: Connecting People, Processes, and IT for Business Results. Larkspur, CA: Work System Press.

Alter, S. (2013). Work system theory: overview of core concepts, extensions, and challenges for the future. Journal of the Association for Information Systems: 72.

Alter, S. (2020). Ten Lightweight Systems Analysis and Design Tools Based on Work System Theory and Its Extensions, Proceedings AMCIS conference.

Petkov, D., Misra, R. & Petkova, O., (2008). Some Suggestions for Further Diffusion of Work System Method Ideas in Systems Analysis and Design, CONISAR Proceedings, Phoenix.

Petkov, D., Petkova O., Sewchurran, K., Andrew T. & Misra, R. (2012) The work system method as an approach for teaching and researching information systems, in Dwivedi, Y.K, Wade, M.R. and Schneberger, S.L (eds), Information Systems Theory: Explaining and Predicting Our Digital Society, Vol.2, Springer, 413-424.

Petkov, D., Alter, S., , Petkova, O., & Andrew, T., (2013), On the Suitability of Soft Systems Methodology and the Work System Method In Some Software Project Contexts, International Journal on Information Technology and the Systems Approach (IJITSA), 6(2), 22-34.