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SSM and technology management: Developing multimethodology through practice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Adrian SmallORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Growing competition and economic recession is driving the need for more rapid redesign of operations enabled by innovative technologies. The acquisition, development and implementation of systems to manage customer complaints and control the quality assurance process is a critical area for engineering and manufacturing companies. Multimethodologies, and especially those that can bridge ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ OR practices, have been seen as a possible means to facilitate rapid problem structuring, the analysis of alternative process design and then the specification through to implementation of systems solutions. Despite the many ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ OR problem structuring and management methods available, there are relatively few detailed empirical research studies of how they can be combined and conducted in practice. This study examines how a multimethodology was developed, and used successfully, in an engineering company to address customer complaints/concerns, both strategically and operationally. The action research study examined and utilised emerging ‘soft’ OR theory to iteratively develop a new framework that encompasses problem structuring through to technology selection and adoption. This was based on combining Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) for problem exploration and structuring, learning theories and methods for problem diagnosis, and technology management for selecting between alternatives and implementing the solution. The results show that, through the use of action research and the development of a contextualised multimethodology, stakeholders within organisations can participate in the design of new systems and more rapidly adopt technology to address the operational problems of customer complaints in more systemic, innovative and informed ways.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Small A, Wainwright D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Operational Research

Year: 2014

Volume: 233

Issue: 3

Pages: 660-673

Print publication date: 16/03/2014

Online publication date: 12/09/2013

Acceptance date: 29/08/2013

Date deposited: 10/07/2015

ISSN (print): 0377-2217

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6860

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2013.08.049


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