Contingency theoretic methodology for agent-based, web-oriented manufacturing systems

J. R. Durrett, L. J. Burnell, J. W. Priest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of distributed, agent-based, web-oriented, N-tier Information Systems (IS) must be supported by a design methodology capable of responding to the convergence of shifts in business process design, organizational structure, computing, and telecommunications infrastructures. We introduce a contingency theoretic model for the use of open, ubiquitous software infrastructure in the design of flexible organizational IS. Our basic premise is that developers should change in the way they view the software design process from a view toward the solution of a problem to one of the dynamic creation of teams of software components. We postulate that developing effective, efficient, flexible, component-based distributed software requires reconceptualizing the current development model. The basic concepts of distributed software design are merged with the environment-causes-structure relationship from contingency theory; the task-uncertainty of organizational-information-processing relationships from information processing theory; and the concept of inter-process dependencies from coordination theory. Software processes are considered as employees, groups of processes as software teams, and distributed systems as software organizations. Design techniques already used in the design of flexible business processes and well researched in the domain of the organizational sciences are presented. Guidelines that can be utilized in the creation of component-based distributed software will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2000


  • Business object design
  • Business process design
  • Component-based design
  • Contingency theory
  • Distributed systems
  • Object-oriented design
  • Software design
  • Software engineering
  • Software teams


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