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Gathering Stakeholder Perspectives for Analysis

CATWOE

Ever wished there was a tool or framework that would help you to gather details on project stakeholders thoughts and perspectives on where a project or system should go in terms or direction or where it should be focused? Well, here’s some good news; there is one; it’s called the CATWOE framework. ‘CATWOE’ is a good methodology/framework to help get a good understanding on what peoples priorities, values, opinions, beliefs are on a system change, addition or closure. The framework frames their perspective, who, from their perspective, the customer is, owner is and who should be involved. This information comes in handy when reviewing and analysing what kind of need a system should fulfill – you will have detailed information on stakeholders thinking behind the project and its objectives.

The CATWOE methodology was developed by Peter Checkland and was a part of his Soft Systems research; a research study that seems to have been going on for a long time, trying to deal with and manage issues and problems that may lack proper, formal problem definition.

Findings from the analysis is typically used to synthesise with findings from other stakeholders or gather the needs of the key stakeholder that are responsible for setting the objectives of the system.

The framework is a good one and equips you with the tools to gain a good understanding on why a stakeholder of a potential system might want it a certain way and why another may want it another way. CATWOE will also give you good understanding of where the general consensus lies for the system; where the conflicts are; where overlapping occurs and more. The ‘CATWOE’ acronym is as follows:

  • Customer
  • Actor(s)
  • Transformation
  • World View
  • Owner
  • Environment

NOTE: The reason it is presented as ‘CATWOE’ is so it is pronounceable. The proper format of the framework is as below. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it in this way; you can do it however you want! This methodology is a guideline because it is simply, logical. 

  1. World View
    • Here is where you ask the stakeholder why the new system is needed or why it should be changed; you could ask questions like; ‘in your opinion, why…”; “what made you come to that conclusion…”.
    • It is important to remain tactful, a good listener and a good listener at this point; as the more information you have, the better off you are.
    • An answer might be something as simple as, ‘market research has shown there’s a growing demand for plimsole type footwear at cheap prices’
  2. Transformation
    • Transformation is concerned with what process is to be transformed – changed or created.
    • This would typically be in response to the world view and thus comes consecutively
    • Could be something as simple as, ‘sell plimsole type footwear at cheap prices’
  3. Customer
    • Who is the customer that is affected by the process or system change?
    • In the context of our scenario, it would be a consumer wanting to buy plimsole type footwear at cheap prices
    • There may be scope to go in to further detail that might incorporate any analysis the stakeholder has done related to the market
  4. Actor(s)
    • ‘Actor’ is concerned with who will be involved in the process and who will perform the transformation
    • This cold be someone along the lines of in-house footwear designers, sales staff, marketing staff and store managers
  5. Owner
    • Who has authority to close this bad mama jama system?
    • Typically the commissioning authority; project board or board of directors
    • If the owner of the system is the retail department; the retail director may have authority to further change, stop or close down the system
  6. Environment
    • What’s the environment like in which the business system operates? 
    • A good framework to use for this is ‘PESTLE‘, which looks at the macro-economic forces at play, that may potentially have an impact on your system
    • It may even be worth considering some of the internal business processes related to system implementation; items related to the scope of actual implementation, constraints of doing so, any assumptions that are made and what risks there may be. A good framework for this is the ‘BOSCARD‘ framework – the ‘B’ stands for background for a little context; the ‘O’ stands for objective; the objective in this context would be to implement the new system and ‘D’ is deliverables.

So this exercise is what one would typically conduct with project related stakeholders, in order to gather information on where they think the system should go in terms of direction and focus. There is no reason why this framework cannot be used informally. I use it a lot in my day-to-day life when trying to understand reasoning behind decisions.

The CATWOE analysis can then be translated in to a business activity model (BAM), which is a conceptual model of the system as envisaged or imagined by the stakeholder, that was interviewed. You will notice that, for the most part, the CATWOE analysis is simply common sense. You probably already ask the questions and consider the environment etc. All this framework does is add a little structure to that process. Have fun.