Managing data and information in human service, criminal justice and public health programs is fraught with complexity. This course will prepare students to participate constructively in decision-making regarding data management and information systems in client-serving organizations. Students will become familiar with:
- Perspectives about data typically associated with diverse stakeholder roles including: technologists, executive leadership, front-line workers and their supervisors, measurers of performance, evaluators, funders, and clients.
- The range of scenarios for acquiring information systems, and their challenges.
- Strengths and weaknesses of the competing methodologies for developing information systems; stages of and roles within information system projects; and factors that contribute to success or failure.
- The tiered structure of information systems and its implications for labor and financial cost.
- The complex of problems that client-serving agencies face around competing internal priorities, reporting to external funders, acquiring information systems, integrating data across multiple programs, and managing change.
The course teaches a set of practical techniques for looking under the hood of an information system and interpreting its data architecture in order to assess, and potentially enhance, the system’s ability to answer analytical questions from multiple stakeholder perspectives and to be modified as needed.
The course includes readings from the systems thinking traditions which are helpful for understanding the diverse ways of construing the boundaries and nature of the service environment; for understanding the virtues, limitations and pitfalls of common approaches to information system development; and for designing more effective, holistic and evolvable information systems.