Prototypes Versus Pilot Systems: Strategies for Evolutionary Information System Development
This paper aims to establish a connection between the new, evolutionary approach to the development of information systems, which relies on the use of prototypes or pilot systems, and the epistomology - the body of knowledge about knowledge. This is an important connection because the main purpose of prototypes and pilot systems is to enable designers of systems to learn about user needs and to help users to learn about the facilities that systems can offer.
The paper also aims to contrast the merits and limitations of prototypes versus those of pilot systems, drawing from the experience of well established engineering disciplines, in general, and from the author’s own experience, in particular.
In order to achieve these aims the subject matter is organized as follows. In the introduction consideration is given to problems of the relevance of information systems to the needs of their users and to the difficulties in foreseeing undesirable side effects of the introduction of computer-based systems into an organization. The factors that are pertinent to these two problems are identified and a strategy for controlling them is suggested. The inescapable fact that both the designers and users learn as the system is being developed is then related to theories of growth of knowledge which lead to the conclusion that the only sensible way to bring about an information system is by evolution. The important features of pilot systems and prototypes are then discussed and the attention of the reader is drawn to the different roles which these two tools of evolution play in traditional engineering disciplines. After a brief return to epistemology the author speculates about the future role of the user in information systems design.
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