“Must have that Business Intelligence…!” How to illustrate complex processes by interactive exercises and role playing


  • Mirka Kans
  • Ia Williamsson


Engineering education, application software


In enterprises we find many complex processes consisting of several sub-processes and actors, each of them contributing to the end outcome. Teaching on complex processes is not easy if the aim is deep knowledge regarding the processes and how different activities and choices will affect the final outcomes. An example of a complex process is the Enterprise Recourse Planning (ERP) systems procurement. A lot of different business representatives are involved in the procurement project, each with their opinion on how the optimal solution looks like. These opinions are often conflicting and the demands too many to be included in the formal requirements specification. Sometimes the requirements are the same, but expressed in different terms.
Definition and selection of requirements is one of many potential pitfalls of Information Technology (IT) procurement which is dealt with during a half day exercise in ERP procurement in the course “Integrated Business Solutions”. Through role playing the students experience the transformation of theories into practice by identifying, arguing for or against and thereafter agree upon a limited list of requirements. Another complex activity is the evaluation of alternatives, where the students first need to find suitable candidate systems and thereafter assess how well these satisfy the formulated requirements. The vendor web pages and an online search function provided by a consultant are used. This gives a good basis for discussions regarding assessment of information sources and how decision making is affected by available information.
This article describes the purpose and implementation of the above mentioned exercise. The exercise serves as an exemplification of how to create active learning situations that provide hands-on experiences and puts the problem solving and analysis abilities in a real context. Different skills trained during the exercise are highlighted using the Conceive-Design- Implement-Operate (CDIO) syllabus. The article also identifies pitfalls to be avoided when creating this kind of learning situations.