Essays in information management : contributions to the modeling and analysis of quality in information systems engineering

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Economics and Business Management


Efficient organization requires rigorous and systematic information management, which encompasses information processing and decision making. Within the efforts in management science and informatics invested towards advancing the knowledge on, and providing assistance to decision making, this thesis focuses on the conceptualizations and techniques intended to facilitate the identification, evaluation, and selection of decisions during the earliest stages of information systems engineering, whereby the systems of interest are deployed to partly or fully automate various organizational processes, including information processing ones. The overall motivating problem that drove to, and that unites the various contributions presented in this thesis is how to better inform decision making and guide it towards decisions that will increase the quality (as evaluated both by the engineer and the stakeholders) of the information system being engineered. Topics in two key related areas are therefore addressed. First, boundedly rational individuals cannot take engineering decisions by accounting for all information that may be, or actually is available to them. As their information processing abilities are limited and their perception biased, it is necessary to filter the available information to a manageable level, and to bring it to a format that facilitates the rigorous reasoning invested in decision making. Second, it is necessary to provide guidance on how to use the given information in decision making. The first part of this thesis therefore focuses on conceptualizations that facilitate the identification of relevant information and its organization for subsequent analysis, all in the aim of achieving high quality of the system being engineered. In particular, Part I discusses, shows deficiencies, and accordingly revises the conceptual foundations of requirements engineering, a field of information systems engineering that focuses on the identification and analysis of requirements communicated by the stakeholders to the engineer of the system. The novelty of the suggested revision lies primarily in (i) the separation between functional and nonfunctional (i.e., quality) requirements grounded in a foundational ontology, (ii) the introduction of stakeholders’ communicated attitudes as important sources of information for the evaluation of alternative requirements engineering decisions, (iii) the reformulation of the so-called “requirements problem’ – which precisely defines when the requirements engineering effort is successfully completed – to account for attitudes and nonfunctional requirements, and (iv) the recognition of the importance of defeasible reasoning in the search for a solution to the requirements problem. Acknowledging the importance of defeasible reasoning leads – in Part II – to the study of how defeasible reasoning can be incorporated into established decision making processes involved in the identification and analysis of requirements. Novelty in Part II lies mainly in (i) the use of argumentation and justification processes in the modeling and analysis of requirements, (ii) the combined use of design rationale approaches with argumentation and justification, (iii) the recognition that the clarity of arguments is variable (due to ambiguity, vagueness, synonymy, and overgenerality of information going into premises and conclusions in arguments), (iv) the definition of a number of techniques for the detection of unclear information and its clarification, and (v) the use of “clarity’ as a criterion for the discrimination among arguments. Part III shows how the conceptualizations and techniques introduced in Parts I and II are applied within and are relevant to the engineering of information systems, including those that rely on heterogenous and distributed components, as in service-oriented and agent-oriented computing.
Date of Award19 Mar 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorStephane Faulkner (Supervisor), Pierre Yves Schobbens (Co-Supervisor), Rudy De Winne (Jury), Manuel Kolp (Jury), John Mylopoulos (Jury) & Esteban Zimányi (Jury)

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