What is CATWOE Analysis?

Introduction to CATWOE Analysis

CATWOE technique was developed by David Smyth in 1975. He defined 6 elements for problem solving that were combined together into the acronym CATWOE.

CATWOE elements

CATWOE simply stands for Customer, Actors, Transformation processes, World view and Environmental constraints. This is a Soft System Methodology (SSM) or process structured that determines or identifies the business achievements. The possible problems areas associated with it as well as how the solutions are going to affect the individuals or stakeholders. Similarly it can be used to stimulate business problems and their possible solutions.

CATWOE analysis gathers the opinions of various stakeholders or individuals in a common platform and gives the understanding of the opinions. This analysis also refers to a method in which researchers’ come up with a comprehensive report to solve certain problems encountered. This analysis requires serious checks and balances on the availed data.

This simple SSM system involves identification of the problems through collection of information or data and the full expressions. Furthermore, the activities of the systems and conceptual design models are defined or determined. The comparisons between the real world is then made and desirable changes are noted to that effect to enhance in improvements of the problems.


The 6 elements in CATWOE analysis

The various elements in the CATWOE analysis are categorized as follows: Clients, Actors, Transformation, and Worldview, Owners, finally the Environmental constraints or effects. These elements are very essential and critical in the CATWOE analysis in any business organization or enterprise.


The clients are the various individuals or the potential customers or even the stakeholders who suffer due to the possible changes that the system brings about. These are the people who’ll benefit of suffer due to the change in the system/process. The reactions to changes of the customers should be taken into consideration, the most probably considerations are the indeed stakeholders, their problems, and reactions to the proposed changes and equally responses.

Helpful Questions for Clients would be:

  • Who is on the receiving end?
  • What problem do they have now?
  • How will they react to what you are proposing?
  • Who are the winners and losers?



The actors in the system should be considered as they are the individuals who are mandated to implement or effect the system changes which results to consequences that can affect the business organization either positively or negatively. The actors include the suppliers, Government agencies officials among others.

Helpful Questions for Actors would be:

  • Who are the actors who will ‘do the doing’, carrying out your solution?
  • What is the impact on them?
  • How might they react?



These are the changes that the system or process brings about. Transformations processes of the systems are important elements used as most businesses depend on timely processes that are executed at certain intervals, hence bringing out the consequences to the system. CATWOE analysis deliberates on the various inputs and their counter outputs, it involves the determination of the steps involved in defining the inputs or the outputs.

Helpful Questions for Transformations would be:

  • What is the process for transforming inputs into outputs?
  • What are the inputs? Where do they come from?
  • What are the outputs? Where do they go to?
  • What are all the steps in between?


Worldview (Weltanschauung)

“Worldview” is the big picture and the wider impact of the transformed system/process. This is the most crucial step in CATWOE analysis as different stake holders have different approaches to the same issue. Wider views of the overall impacts of the changes in terms of their consequences are noted. Then we ask, are the consequences having a wider reach or not? Are impacts short or longer and again are they possibly contained? These are the critical questions one has to ask so as to properly evaluate the broader views or perceptions. Helpful Questions for Worldview would be:

  • What is the bigger picture into which the situation fits?
  • What is the real problem you are working on?
  • What is the wider impact of any solution?



These are the Decision makers who have the authority to make the changes, stop the project, or decide on whether to go ahead with the change. The owners are critical elements in the business organizations as they have the authority to make changes that affect the business since they are core decision makers. Ownership may also be a scope to determine the owners of the problems observed and hence in the analysis a holistic approach can be evaluated to provide better solutions.

Helpful Questions for Owner would be:

  • Who is the real owner or owners of the process or situation you are changing?
  • Can they help you or stop you?
  • What would cause them to get in your way?
  • What would lead them to help you?



These are the external constraints and limitation affecting the success of the solution. These can be ethical limits, regulations, financial constraints, resource limitations, limitations of project scope, limits set by terms of reference and others. Environmental constraints or effects brought about as a result of the changes are noted in the CATWOE analysis, these are the effects that affects the atmosphere generally they might include noise, or even health hazards of gadgets to humans etc.

Helpful Question for the Environment would be;

  • How does the environment does affects you?
  • What are the broader constraints that act on the situation and your ideas?
  • What are the ethical limits, the laws, financial constraints, limited resources, regulations, and so on?
  • How might these constrain your solution? How can you get around them?
  • Is the environment conducive for the operation?


How to use CATWOE analysis

CATWOE analysis is used to solve various business problems. Normally the system is used to evaluate the processes and point out the roots and transform the inputs to outputs.

Before the analysis, collection of information to be used is important so as to assist in performing of the CATWOE analysis. The next stage is to determine the transformation in the information sources needed to perform the analysis, further identification of the worldviews in the information source and evaluate the world view that is actually performed parallel to the transformation processes.

Orderly or un-orderly formula is used to determine the customers who are the beneficiaries of the system, evaluation of the owners in the information source follows, thereafter determination of the environmental constraints within the boundaries of the analysis systems.as examined by Sobreperez, P., & Ferneley, E. (2009).

How to solve business problems with CATWOE?

The analysis is used to explore the system or processes through highlighting their roots that involve converting the inputs into outputs. Each element has its own goal.


In Summary

  • Clients: small business, advertising, and marketing agencies
  • Actors: drivers, engineers, designers, crew members
  • Transformation: advertising is demonstrated on trucks while driving
  • Worldview: income increase in cargo carriage business
  • Owners: CEO and shareholders
  • Environmental Constraints: local laws of the countries, road rules, regulation problems




Basden, A., & WoodHarper, A. T. (2002). A philosophical enrichment of CATWOE (Doctoral  dissertation). Praxis Education). Salford: University of Salford

Neves, L. P., Dias, L. C., Antunes, C. H., & Martins, A. G. (2009). Structuring an MCDA model using SSM: A case study in energy efficiency. European Journal of Operational Research , 199 (3), 834845

Sánchez, A., & Mejía, A. (2008). Learning to support learning together: An experience with the Soft Systems Methodology. Educational Action Research , 16 (1), 109124.

Sobreperez, P., & Ferneley, E. (2009). Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story: A case study investigation into extracting and analysing stories using CATWOE. International Journal of Organizational Analysis , 17 (1), 200.