Table of Contents
- Analyzing An Office - presented by Sheralyn Mann
- Methodologies of Office Automation - presented by Rod Brassard
- Other Office Automation Links
Designing Office Systems
Many efforts have been made to develop office programming
languages that can express and even automate procedures found in semi-
structured offices. A formal methodology for assessing needs and
defining office procedures is necessary when using these programming
A methodology to assess needs in individual offices must include these
A Needs Assessment Methodology is necessary to identify the crucial needs
to be served by automation. If the tools are procedural, then a Procedural Design Methodology
and a Procedural Implementation Methodology should be implemented.
- Needs Assessment Methodology
- Procedural Design Methodology
- Procedural Implementation Methodology
Procedural tools are those in which there is a predetermined flow of work
involving many steps. The flow may be the same every time, or may include a more complex
logic flow. With non-procedural tools, one can specify a set of
functions to be supported but cannot say what functions
will be used or in what order. The use of decision
support systems, database management systems, electronic
spreadsheet systems, the telephone, and word processing
tools generally fall into this category.
Offices can be grouped into two types:
Type 2 offices present a major problem to designers
of office methodologies. Traditional procedural analysis tools
are not likely to be effective in determining the needs of the
office. Rather, the strategies that must be designed and
supported are likely to depend heavily on the professional
content of the work being done.
- Type 1 offices or departments handle the firms routine
information processing. (For example, accounting, payroll, and
billing departments) procedures are central in these
departments, and the automation of procedures is critical to
- Type 2 offices or departments handle the firms non-routine
information processing. (For example, corporate planning
departments, marketing departments, and engineering
departments). There are comparatively few set procedures in
these departments, and support of these procedures is not
central to improved functional performance. Work should be
supported with non-procedural tools, such as e-mail, decision-
support systems, and access to departmental and corporate
Goals of Office Information Systems (OIS) Methodologies
- The first goal of an OIS methodology is to obtain an accurate
description of the office. A complete and formal description of all
aspects of the office work is not feasible. But, the model used in a
methodology should describe as many aspects of the office as possible
in an clear and concise way. This description will be useful to the
system designer, as well as the potential users of the new system by
enabling them to validate the system and suggest possible
- A second goal is to locate the functions that are only loosely
related to the goals of the company. This is done to separate these
functions into two groups: The first group includes functions that are
not related to actual office work, but are still necessary for social
and organizational reasons; The second group of functions are those
that need to be re-examined. These functions may be obsolete and are
only being done out of habit. They should be corrected before the
implementation of the new system.
- The final goal of a conceptual model it that it act as a guide in
providing technical solutions, and provide criteria to follow in
evaluating possible solutions and in choosing tools for design.
Approaches to OIS Conceptual Design
A crucial element of a methodology is the type of office
conceptual view that is adopted during the analysis of the office.
Different conceptual views will lead to different approaches in the
analysis of office work, and should be considered.
- A technical view examines office work in great detail, by looking
at the operations that are performed and measuring them, usually in
terms of execution time. The goal of this type of approach is to
identify the best methods to perform the work. Productivity is
measured mainly in terms of throughputs, instead of considering global
- In an organizational view, the global organizational structure of
the office is analyzed and business goals are examined. The
(hierarcichal) organizational structure of the company is reflected in
this type of office model.
- A socio-technical view considers the office in terms of
tasks to be performed by each unit of the enterprise. Each unit has
some type of control on the work, and has resources and memory on which
to base present and future decisions. A set of rules is used to
perform controls and to take into consideration goals and constraints
in the execution of the tasks.
Aspects of OIS
- Office data: The conceptual models on which OIS design is based must be able to
consider all office elements. The data used in conventional
Information systems, such as character, string, and numeric data, are
not enough. Other types of data, consisting of unstructured data
contained in messages, mail, and oral communications must also be
- Time factor: There must be support for scheduling activities,
calendar functions, and control operations.
- Office activities: OIS must be flexible. Office tasks
can be performed in several ways, and instructions for the completion
of a task can differ.
- Interconnection of elements: Office activities can be very complex.
There are a large number of elements in each office which are related through several
connections. In general, the elements of office work are distributed
amoung several office workers, thus communication among workers and
with the external world is an important function.
- Office evolution: Activities can change over time, and ways
of processing information grow and change.
- Usage characteristics: OIS are highly interactive, and the
interface with the users should be adequate to the type of work to be performed.
- Filtering: Filtering of large amounts of data is required to
provide workers with specific information, related to thier task.
- Reminding: In traditional offices, the arrangement of papers, books, and notes
have the function of reminding workers of activities to be performed
and their different priorities. Information is hidden from the user
in an automated office, so the system must provide the function of
reminding, and possibly the scheduling of activities.
- Integration of functions: A number of functions are
performed in an office. These functions
such as communication, data processing, information manipulation and
retrieval, and task management may be integrated together and used by
the same worker in fast sequence (or interleaved together). The
system must provide easy transitions between functions.
- Impact of technology Methodologies should be as
independent as possible of implementation details. This is done so that the
impact of technology does not effect the office methodology.
Categories of Office Conceptual Models
Office conceptual models can be classified into categories based on the
fundamental elements that they take into consideration.
- Data-based models group data into forms, which are similar to paper
forms in the traditional office. Types of data and the operations of
data are the basic elements of these conceptual models. Office
activities are then seen as a series of operations on data. The main
purpose of data-based models is to represent the office from the
viewpoint of objects manipulated by office workers, in a way similar
to traditional offices, where work was primarily based on documents.
- Process-based models analyze and describe office work by looking at
different activities performed concurrently by the users and the
system. The OAM methodology is based on a process-based conceptual
model. The goal of process-based models is that of representing
office activities in a coordinated way. The approach is founded on
an integrated vision of all the activities performed in an office,
rather that operations performed by single users as in a data-based
- Agent-based models are based on the viewpoint of the functions
performed by active elements of the office environment, which are the
agents. This type of model describes the office by associating a set
of functions to the different agents. The description of the office
is not only dependent on data and processes, but also the set of
office workers and their organizational structure. Its goal is that
of examining office workers roles, the delegation of roles in the
office, and so on; while data and activities are considered only in
relation to their executors.
- Mixed models explicitly assume more than one type of element as the
basis for system specification, and go on to define the relationships
among these elements. One example of a mixed model classifies office
elements into three sub-models. One sub-model specifying the data
related to the office, the second specifying the operations and
activities in the office, and the third sub-model specifying both the
normal evolution of office work, and the possible structural
modifications of office tasks. When compared to the other models,
the mixed model provides a more complete specification of different
types of the fundamental elements in the office.
Office Analysis Methodology (OAM)
This methodology is based on the analysis of the activities performed
in the organization. It focuses on the first two
phases of OIS design: The Requirements Analysis phase, and Requirements
The goal of OAM is to understand office work in terms of functions,
activities, flows, tasks, and so on. The office analysis process
investigates why functions are performed, what they do, and how they
are implemented. The methodology is directed to the analysis of semi-structured
problems at a managerial level in order to identify the business
goals of the organization.
Office functions are examined top-down; the office manager and
planner are interviewed first, and then office activities are examined
in greater detail, following the office hierarchy. In contrast, the
integration of the office system with the organization and the other
systems is performed bottom-up. The results of the requirements
analysis phase are specified in a high-level and problem-oriented
language called Office Specification Language (OSL). This description
is implementation independant, emphasizing office functions rather than
specific operational tasks.
Here is the general schema of OAM:
- Meet with the office manager
- Organizational context and reporting relationships
- Functions and resources of the office
- DIdentification of conceptual objects and procedures
- Identification of key personnel
- Produce initial procedure descriptions
- Conceptual objects
- Core procedure steps and major alternate control paths
- Inputs and outputs
- Environment and special equipment
- Develop and analyze a draft description
- Examine for inconsistency and incompleteness
- Construct list of exception possibilities
- Iterate the interview process
- Circulate draft descriptiogn
- Resolve conflicts and ambiguities
- Investigate exception-handling procedures
- Watch for ad hoc decision making
- Review the analysis with the manager
- Validate intentions behind each procedure
- Clarify what happens at interfaces with other offices
- General exception handling
- Finalize the office description
Other Office Automation Links
About the Office Automation Systems
Interpersonal Computing and Technology:Vol2,No3
Collaborative Information Retrieval: Gopher from MOO
Automation Can Help To Avoid Malpractice
Technology Management: Three Keys To Success
Teger, S.L. (1983). Factors impacting the evolution of office automation.
Proceedings of the IEEE. pp. 503-511.
Panko, R.R. (1984). 38 offices: analysing needs in individual offices.
ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems. pp. 226-234.
Bracchi, G. & Pernici, B. (1984). Design requirements of office systems.
ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems. pp. 151-170.
Mumford E. (1986). The Office Of the Future. Computer Bulletin
Christie B., Gardiner M. (1986). Office Systems. Information
Technology and People. pp. 85-102. F. Blackler &
Hirscheim, R.A. (1986). Understanding the Office: A Social-Analytical
Perspective. ACM Transactions On Office Information
Systems. pp. 331-344.
Last modified April 9, 1995