Modeling Transparency in Software Systems for Distributed Work Groups

Modeling Transparency in Software Systems for Distributed Work Groups

A B. Sagar (Hyderabad Central University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3679-8.ch022
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Software systems require ethics. Several systems fail due to lack of ethics built into them. So, every software engineer needs to have an idea on ethics, so that they can build them into the software systems. Ethics requires accountability. Accountability is to the organization, stakeholders, and to the society. This chapter discusses the ethical issue of transparency. In the previous decade, we have seen a very increased use of this term. Transparency is being considered an indispensable ingredient in social accountability and is necessary for preserving and guaranteeing ethical and fair processes. Transparency is related to visibility of information, and without it, the organization and stakeholders will be left in blind states. Ultimately, the lack of transparency leads to unpleasant surprises due to bad decisions, letdown, increasing doubts, uncertainty, failure, and the breakdown of faith and trust. This is bad for the organizations involved, the people investing in them, stakeholders, suppliers, and employees. It is also bad, as we have seen recently, for the economy. This is true for government agencies and functions just as for businesses and communities. The least transparent governments are the most dictatorial and secretive in their decision-making and governance. An informed citizenship is vital for healthy, free societies, just as informed investors are needed for a healthy, strong economy. The degree of transparency in the software systems, then, becomes a barometer for health and vitality in governments, leadership, and business. The growing importance to the requirement of transparency in all these domains was the motivation to the present chapter.
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2. Transparency

Transparency means openness of decisions and actions. Put another way, it means a free flow of information about decisions and actions, from source to recipient. There are several categories that are considered under transparency. Publication: The software system simply provides some rudimentary information about a specific issue; citizens/users can get a basic insight into operations and personnel; Transaction: The software system automates some public sector processes to remove partly those processes from human control; Reporting: The software system provides specific details of public sector decisions and actions; these may be reported in the form of performance indicators; Openness: The software system not only provides details of current performance, but enables users to compare that performance against pre-set standards (may also be called benchmarks or targets). Thus transparency is related to both financial and non- financial reporting. Financial reporting includes tracking of monetary data and non-financial reporting includes task execution data. This section provides a theoretical basis for understanding transparency and the section 4 provides details needed for implementation of transparency in a work group.

A work group implies two or more individuals who routinely function like a team, and interdependent in achievement of a common goal, and may or may not work next to one another or in the same department. This kind of work groups are ever present in business domains or as software teams. They represent a part of a business or the business itself. Transparency implies visibility of information related to financial and non-financial matters of the work group and its stakeholders. Work groups are generally hierarchical in nature with one supervising over another i.e. higher levels supervise over lower levels. Hierarchies are a common structure in organizations. This is because they reflect a natural and common technique for human beings to deal with complexity. In business, the business owner traditionally occupied the pinnacle of the organization. In most modern large companies, there is now no longer a single dominant shareholder, and the collective power of the business owners is for most purposes delegated to a board of directors, which in turn delegates the day-to-day running of the company to a managing director or CEO. For example, a typical work group will be a Self Help Group and the hierarchical structure will be as given in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Hierarchical structure


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