England.  Change location

IT systems: planning for success

Qualification dates
Start End

organisations and people and highly complex – yet they fail, often spectacularly. This module teaches you the skills 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 that succeed and ensure they’re robust in the face of future changes. You’ll also learn project-management skills and 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

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

You’ll also be provided with three printed module books, each covering one block of study.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

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 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment