A Framework for Evaluating Success in Systems Analysis

by B. F. Goeller


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This paper describes the roles (e.g., policymaker, implementer, operator, lobbyer, adviser on the decision, evaluator, enforcer, person affected by the problem situation) parties at interest may play in a problem situation or in an associated systems analysis (e.g., sponsor, client, user, systems analysis team, peer group, systems analysis research program director, adviser on the analysis, formal reviewer, implementation planner). The author defines the different kinds of success a systems analysis may achieve, the criteria by which various parties evaluate success, and the factors that complicate those evaluations. The kinds of success distinguish (1) how the analysis was performed and presented (analytic success), (2) how the analysis was used in policymaking (utilization success), and (3) what happened to the problem situation as a result (outcome success). A study's success can be evaluated with respect to the decision and problem for which the analysis was commissioned (direct success) or with respect to other decisions and problems (indirect success). The author concludes by suggesting the relative emphasis that analysts should give to seeking the different kinds of success. Frequent examples from three "successful" analyses illustrate the discussion.

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