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Multimethodologies - the Knowledge Perspective

Dr. David J. Skyrme
Chapter 9, pp.217-241 in Multimethodology, eds. John Mingers and Anthony Gill, John Wiley ∓ Sons (1997)


This chapter explores the ways in which computer tools and processes can enhance the processes and outcomes in a multimethodology.1 It starts from my personal experiences of working with software developers and strategic planning. The basis of the article is my disappointment that many computer systems fail to meet expectations and that many of the 'soft' methodologies that address the vital human and organization factors have failed to gain widespread acceptance in organizations.

The main argument of the chapter is that if we are to be more successful in practice at applying methods and tools, of whatever type - hard or soft, then a new perspective is needed by both  proponents and users. That perspective is understanding the role of information and knowledge.

The chapter starts by outlining some of the differences between methodologies in theory and methodologies in use. The nature of information and knowledge is then considered. This is related to the development and use of methodologies. This theme is then developed to indicate that by explicitly recognising and managing information and knowledge, that the outcomes of a methodology can be improved. The role of information technology in capturing and diffusing information and knowledge is then explored. The chapter concludes with some suggestions on how multimethodologies should be packaged, and the requirements of a good information and knowledge management infrastructure to support their effective use. Throughout, I draw heavily on my practical experience and observation.

Contents Outline

Introduction - the need for a new perspective

The Theory-Reality Gap - difficulties encountered in trying to apply strategic planning methods. Results of research into use of systems development methodologies e.g. experienced users tend to 'mix 'n match', rather than slavishly follow the workbook.

The Information and Knowledge Perspective - knowledge associated with methods - tact and explicit.

  • Encapsulated knowledge - embedded knowledge in products and manuals
  • Knowledge in use - diffusion of implicit knowledge in methodologies
Information and Knowledge Components
  • Information-knowledge hierarchy - know-how, know-why etc.
  • Information and knowledge processes - generic  knowledge value chain
  • Information and knowledge management, including information as a resource (IRM)
  • A new perspective on methodologies - the tacit knowledge surround
The Role of Information Technology - the evolution of IT from computation to cognition
  • Software tools for methodologies - features e.g. hierarchies, views, but limitations. From this a set of essential requirements for effective tools is proposed
  • Methodology knowledge infrastructure - mapping, expert nets, Intranets
  • Issues and challenges - the 'politics' of information, the need for top management understanding
  • Implications - for developers, researchers, users and managers
Summary and Conclusions - choice and adpatability. Knowledge dimension is a powerful way of understanding how to improve and use methodologies, whether for systems development or other management methods.

1. Multimethodology is the application of several methodologies simultaneously in organizational problem solving and interventions. The range of methodologies cover 'hard' methodologies such as SSADM and Yourdon, and 'soft' methoodologies such as SSM or VSM (viable systems model).

2. Details of the book are at resources page.

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