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IT systems: planning for success

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IT systems are a critical part of our world, in business, public sector and voluntary sector environments, and are often highly complex and interconnected combinations of technology, organisations and people. Yet they frequently fail, often spectacularly. This module teaches the skills to enable you to contribute towards successful IT systems. It draws on techniques from systems theory, software engineering and management to: understand the nature of success and failure, design IT systems to enable success, and ensure that IT systems are robust in the face of future changes. You will also learn skills in project management and will cover legal, social, ethical and professional issues.

What you will study

IT systems are a complex sociotechnical mixture of technology (including hardware, software and networking), organisations, and people. IT systems: planning for success (TM353) teaches skills for understanding and enabling success in each of these areas. The foundation of the module is systems thinking: concepts and tools for making sense of the whole of a complex system, including the emergent relationships between its interconnected parts.

This module consists of three blocks.

In Block 1 you will look at:

  • the sociotechnical nature of IT systems
  • how we understand success and failure in IT systems
  • how to analyse and avoid systems failure; and the complex nature of systems.

Block 2 looks at how to create conditions for success in IT systems through:

  • the use of effective sociotechnical systems design
  • an understanding and use of appropriate methodologies
  • an understanding of reliability and dependability in IT systems
  • an analysis of security and privacy.

In Block 3 you will examine how to ensure continued success in established IT systems through:

  • exploring the maintenance and evolution of IT
  • an understanding of future strands, including scenario planning
  • disaster recovery
  • a deeper appreciation of the digital divide.

The theme of project management of IT systems, and how this links with legal, social, ethical and professional issues, runs throughout the module.

The three main teaching blocks cover key aspects of systems thinking. Each block includes a blend of printed and online text, pictures, animations and practical activities. Accompanying the teaching material are specially recorded audio and video material, including interviews with leading researchers, experts, companies and users from a wide range of countries.

IT systems: planning for success (TM353) isn’t just about reading – it’s about learning through hands-on experience.

If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project (TM470), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.

You will learn

This module will help you to understand the:

  • nature of success and failure in IT systems
  • sociotechnical nature of IT systems
  • legal, social, ethical and professional contexts in which IT systems exist
  • issues around IT systems reliability, dependability, security and privacy.

It will give you the skills to:

  • analyse IT systems in a complex sociotechnical context
  • observe and analyse features relating to IS failures in a given situation
  • work with effective IT development and project management methodologies
  • successfully enable the maintenance and evolution of IT systems
  • future proof IT systems, including the use of scenario planning and disaster recovery.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at levels 1 and 2. They are only intended for students with recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

To study this module, you should be able to:

  • use your computer to carry out tasks such as writing with a word-processor, saving and locating files, installing software and accessing a website
  • perform simple calculations
  • read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper
  • write clearly in English.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

Printed study texts, online study material including ebooks, module website and online forums.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. In addition, there will be online tutorials and other collaborative activities in the module, which will take place in your tutor group’s online forum. Throughout the module you can use this forum to keep in touch with your tutor and with other members of your tutor group.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying TM353 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

IT systems: planning for success (TM353) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2021.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.