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This paper seeks to analyze a given case study involving Concept Software Solutions (CSS) and to explore the relevant decision alternatives faced by the IT professionals involved in the case. The analysis will be limited to using the case facts and make reasonable assumptions where there is basis to do so based on case facts. This analysis is from the point of point view of responsible IT professional with special relationship to being bound as an employee to CSS organization under an employer-employee relationship. This will also identify the different stakeholders and describe the scenarios where ethical issues that would be identified.
1. 1 Definition of important terms 1. 1. 1. Model of ethical decision-making. This refers to the model used to arrive at a decision on what should be done under a given set of facts. As applied to this paper, this would refer to identification of all the stakeholder in situation described in the scenario, generating the possible ethical issues to be resolved, listing all the possible alternatives, using an ethical theory or theories to resolved the facts and issues as identified and recommending a course of action to be taken based on analysis 1. 1.
2 Normative ethical theories – This would refer to the set of premises or approaches that will be used in deciding whether a course of action or decision is right or wrong (Wood, et al, 1996 citing Larue, et al, 1993). 2. Main discussion 2. 1. Identification of all stakeholders in the situations described in the scenario The stakeholders in the case include the employer of Angela, Angela, her employer CSS, the clients of CSS, her co-workers who are IT professionals and all other parties that would be affected in the decision to be made or in the failure to make the proper decisions as called for by the issues.
2. 2. Identify ethical dilemmas within the case scenario The main ethical dilemma is whether clients who bought product from CSS should be informed about the defect of the said that the company had released earlier which could potential losses to said clients. The second dilemma is the need to know the obligation of David as an employee who came to learn about a company secret or some confidential matter which he discovered by accident. 2. 3.
Using both a model of ethical decision-making and normative ethical theories, analyze the scenario, generating alternative solutions, justifying your choice of preferred solution The scenario depicts the resolution of the following ethical issues: First, there is need to determine whether the decision of the board to keep secret the discovered defects for the products sold and wait for the time when there is need to address the problem and the same could generate additional revenues or profits for the company.
Second, there is need to decide on what is the ethical thing to do for a member of a group of IT professionals working for a company like CSS after discovering a secret by accident. Case facts say that after the interviews conducted by management, it was announced that Angela Edwards was appointed the acting Project Manager effective immediately due to Angela’s excellent preparation and performance at the interview. Her first major task was to sort out a defect that been released been released in a previous product.
From an urgent e-mail from the company’s board of directors, Angela learned that her employer CSS has decided not to inform clients about this defect. After some heated debate among the directors, the board decided was to keep it secret. It could not be assumed however from the case facts that the defect was known from the time of the release and therefore it was not intentional. Thus, it could be inferred that the consequences for each possible decision was made before the board made its position.
Case facts also mentioned about the opposing side’s arguments that the company should send all the patch to all their clients at no at no additional charge as way of demonstrating good will towards the client’s and helping them to avoid losses. The board’s decision was to fix each client’s problem when the problem occurs, charging each one for the company’s time and effort. The reasons for the decision include the arguments that there is more money to be made from clients with deep pockets, and to not diminish their client’s perception of Concept Software Solutions’ products.
It would appear that there is good reason to sustain the board’s decision since the defect may not have been known when the product was made but was only discovered in the process when the products were only in use. If the defects could not be the type that would deprive the buyer of the original and intended use of the products, then the CSS has all the reasons to be free from liability and any subsequent defect may be sources of additional business. It could not be argued that CSS was in bad faith that it had knowledge of the defect at the time of the release.
It is more consistent with common sense to assume that the effect was just discovered sometime after the release. In the absence of clear evidence that would point otherwise, the company could be presumed to have good faith in making decisions (Bureau of National Affairs, 1998). The second issue to be resolved on what to do with the discovered secret involves that of David who happened to have read a copy of the confidential email that Angela had received from the company’s directors, in the printer’s output tray.
Case facts provide that David had not previously been aware that CSS had released a defective product and it was his natural curiosity about the contents of the email that led him to read the confidential email. He was however was aware that he should not be reading a confidential email and could have his employment terminated if he was caught. He expected that the copy from the output tray would be collected and that he was assuring himself that everyone had left the office, but unknown to him the company directors had installed cameras monitoring the Brisbane Office.
Case facts further provide that David did hesitantly read the confidential email and learns that CSS plan with the defective software that was to keep it secret and wait when clients need the service to have it corrected and that the company could earn from it. Afterwards, David immediate called the team’s technical writer Josephine to inform her of the discovery. The first issue occupies the greater focus of this paper, thus the two classes of normative ethical theories would be applied – the deontological and teleological theories in the following subsections.
The second issue will still be resolved although there are enough facts from the case what would help in the process. 2. 3. 1. Applying Deontological ethical theories As explained earlier this paper uses an ethical-decision model as defined earlier. The various normative ethical theories include those falling under deontological ethics, which is based on pre-determined rules and those falling under teleological or consequentialist theory, which considers the benefit that will accrue to individuals, groups or society in making the decisions.
This subsection will use first the deontological. Deontological ethics assumes that there is a set of rules of rules to be followed (Henderson, et. al, 2005). There is therefore focus on means to be used in choosing the action to be taken regardless of the consequences as long as rule interpretation is not ambiguous. It is therefore presupposed that the action will be right because the rules are presumed to accomplish the same. To illustrate, the same could take the case of what is legal as one formed by the consensus of a group.
Although the action to be done is pre-defined, without references to possible consequences, any violation of the law would be considered as unethical using the principle defined. In organizations, the law may take the form of code of ethics. In case of the CSS, there is the email message from the directors that the defect of the products sold be kept secret. Since the case facts presumes that the decision of board is binding to the organization, it is presumed to ethical as far as the organization is concerned.
Theory provides that what is right may be derived or by institutional arguments or by agreement or by consensus of the group (Wood-Harper, et. al, 1996). It appears that the decision of the board not to tell to client was an apparent result of group consensus of the board. They may be other directors from the board who had different positions from the majority of the members but the board acts as a single body (Gregoriou, 2006; La Fayette Wilgus, 1902) and that the decision of the majority is the decision of the board.
Between therefore what is derived or agreed, the latter is most applicable in the case of CSS because of the presumed agreement of the majority of the board. Theory admits that in the consensus of the groups that there may be members of the group that may have different ethical foundations, as they arrive at a consensus. From the codified consensus, it could be argued that what is proper operates from a deontological basis where how the rules become right is already unimportant (Wood-Harper, et. al, 1996). The management then were working on predetermined guidelines for action.
Perhaps management as represented by boar was convinced that defect was discovered limitation of the product that was not seen at the time of sale. There is no such thing as perfect product as they are normally improved over time like many other products (Stamatis,2003; Pine, 2007). As long as the defect not being told does not constitute fraud, the management of CSS has all the reasons to be sustained ethically speaking in their decision to just provide the necessary services to client with the added cost passed on to clients.
2. 3. 2. Applying Teleological Ethics Under the second class of normative theory is the consequentialist or teleological ethics, where the rightness of an action is evaluated based on the outcome that the action will produce. It is called a context-dependent ethic, because the said type of ethics requires the person to be able to predict first possible outcomes and to evaluate the goodness of those outcomes. The theory itself provides no help in predicting possible outcomes, especially in respect of technology-related actions.
New technologies are said to be found with consequences different from what the inventors have inventors envisioned. Thus this could be found in the case of originators of the Internet who saw it primarily as a tool for the exchange of information but has now become as a medium for virtual society (Wood-Harper, et. al, 1996). The inventors could then had responsibilities as far as they could have known at the time of the creation. But the world of events are normally seen as effects of causes that may not have been determined before the decision.
Thus the decision- maker in using this kind of ethics should be exert all means to know the possible implication of the decisions at the time of making the decision. To apply the principles of teleological theories to CSS, it is necessary to know whether management knew beforehand the possible consequences of the decision to keep defect secret. The board decision would mean generating additional revenues in terms of additional services that would be provided for those that will be affected by the defects when the need arises by charging the clients for additional services.
If such happen, the same would be in accordance also with Utilitarian ethics which evaluates what is ethical in terms of the benefits provided either to the individuals to a special group or to society. In case of CSS, the same could be taken to have benefits for the whole organization which will in turn benefits many stakeholders including the stockholders, the management, the employees, the creditors and suppliers and even the government.
The decision of the board may also be deemed to include the personal and ethical philosophies of the directors or managers of CSS (Wood, et al, 1996 citing Bommer, et. al, 1987). 2. 3. 3. Resolution of the second issue As to what is the ethical thing to do for this part may be resolved using the deontological ethical theory where a pre-determined rule of action was already clear that one should not read confidential matters in the course of their work if they have no authority to have them in the first place.
Necessarily, it is implied that David should not have told Josephine about the secret either which makes is to be an unethical conduct for him as far as deontological ethical principles are concerned. From the consequentialist point of view, he could be thinking of any damage that clients may have because of the defect if they will be not be informed of the defect. For him to decide to inform the clients, would be presumed to be again a violation of company policy and if he could not justify a civic duty to inform clients without violating the law and his company policy on the matter.
David should be advised to presume that his employer CSS knew what it was doing and in case the company would be sued, it could be made legally responsible for these feared damages. 3. Conclusion In determining, what is right of wrong in the case of CSS, one may view it from different perspectives but for the purpose of this paper, the perspective is from a responsible IT professional who works in an organization with its own code of ethics or set of rules to action.
To apply deontological theory, in the case of CSS, there is need to presume for the existence of predetermined guideline or rule to be used in determining the propriety of the action done. One means is the use of existing laws on IT in the place where the company operates. If the management could properly justify that, it is not violating any law about keeping secret of a discovered defect in the products. If the company can take the legal risks or consequences assuming that there is doubt as to its legality, then there is basis to sustain the decision of the board that it should kept secret.
If the company would use the consequentialist theories of ethics, it may be necessary to know beforehand the possible consequences of the decision. Since the board has decided that, it can generate additional revenues in terms of additional services that would be provided for those that will be affected by the defects when the need arises by charging the clients for additional services, the same could be taken to have benefits for the whole organization.
If the organization benefits, many stakeholders will benefit as well including the stockholders, the management, the employees, the creditors and suppliers and even the government. This researcher, in effect, sustains the ethical position of the board with the condition that defect was discovered after the sale and not known by management at the time of the release of the product.