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IT systems: planning for success

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.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
3 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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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.

Vocational relevance

This module provides many skills of vocational relevance in addition to the above, including the ability to:

  • analyse the professional/ethical issues involved in the development and use of IT systems
  • extract useful information from highly technical documents
  • investigate, analyse, think critically, evaluate and synthesise information from appropriate sources
  • learn independently from third-party materials
  • learn in familiar and unfamiliar situations and to translate that knowledge to other situations
  • communicate effectively using written and graphical presentations as appropriate.

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).

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.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    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.


    Start End Fee
    - - -

    No current presentation - see Future availability

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2021.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 23/10/2019.

    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.

    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.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.