A quality oriented approach towards information requirement determination in equivocal situations

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Mousavinejad, Seyed Mohammad Amin
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University College Cork
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Analysis of users’ needs is one of the key determinants of any system’s success and the foundation of requirement determination process. Yet because of the complexity of human’s needs, the process of requirement determination for developing systems to meet human’s needs is often ad hoc and poorly understood (Browne & Ramesh, 2002). Poor execution of Information Requirement Determination (IRD) will almost guarantee the failure of the final project, as a result a significant portion of requirement determination activities are dedicated to determining users’ information level requirements (Hickey & Davis, 2004) which in this study is referred to as IRD. There is no commonly accepted IRD method for all situations and therefore IRD methods are leaning toward specialised methods, designed for specific contexts and situations (Siau & Rossi, 2011). However a significant proportion of IRD literature is focused on organisational context while there are other complex contexts which require researchers’ attention. One such situations for which no specialised IRD method could be found in the literature is the context of “Individual Decision Making in Equivocal Situations (IDMES)” which in this study is defined as: Contexts in which an individual should make important decisions in complex and equivocal situations he/she is not an expert in. Examples of IDMES could be identified in healthcare where a patient who is not a trained healthcare professional has to choose between several available treatments for a serious health problem. Complexity of decisions a patient needs to make is comparable to the complex decisions that a manager must make in an organisation. The differentiation is that patients are not healthcare specialists but managers are specialists of the area in which they make decisions. In such situations providing higher amount of information to users may actually increase the uncertainty they face (e.g. overloading a patient with information). Therefore, in developing information systems for supporting decision making in such contexts, extra attention should be paid to determining other characteristics of users’ information needs, namely: quality and source. To establish a theoretical foundation for the IRD method required in this context, a conceptual model labelled as Quality Requirement Determination (QRD) model has been generated in this study. To develop the QRD model, two concepts of Information Quality (IQ) and Information Seeking Behaviour (ISB) have been leveraged. Although both IQ and ISB are mature topics, their applications in IRD methods are not very well studied (Gharib & Giorgini, 2015; Savolainen, 2007, 2008; Sonnenwald, Wildemuth, & Harmon, 2001). To evaluate the QRD model, it has been applied to the case of parenting children with autism. This case has been selected because it meets all the characteristics of IDMES, namely because: 1) autism cause and cure are unknown and therefore selecting from the array of available interventions “is a nightmare for desperate parents” (Crawford, 2013, p. 53). 2) Parents must individually make decisions in a context in which they are not trained experts even though over time they develop a certain level of practical experience. Seventeen parents were interviewed about their information seeking behaviours when they needed to decide on interventions necessary for a specific problem. The results of the data analysis confirm the existence of the relationships between perceived information needs, source preference behaviour and quality requirements proposed in the QRD model. The information requirements which arose from the case of parenting children with autism is embodied in the QRD presentation matrix. It leverages a nine cell matrix with each cell representing a cognitive role played by the information sources in the users’ information horizon1 . The QRD presentation matrix along with the QRD model and associated data collection and analysis techniques are called QRD method. To evaluate the usability of determined information by the QRD method, results of an instrumental case study were presented to a group of IS practitioners. The selected IS practitioners have been chosen from variety of expertise involved in developing information systems to reflect the maximum variety of opinions. The interview results demonstrated the value of the QRD method for a number of key practical activities in the IRD process, namely: context study, problem definition, quality requirement analysis, quality implementation, designing information flow and user interface design.
Information requirement determination , Information system development , Information seeking behaviour , Uncertainty , Equivocality , Information needs , Information quality , Information horizon , Information source preference , Autism
Mousavinejad, S. M. A. 2016. A quality oriented approach towards information requirement determination in equivocal situations. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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