Rob Collins


I have been teaching on the MSc in Software Engineering at the University of Oxford for the last 10 years. Currently I teach two courses:

I also teach the Systems Engineering Fast-Track course through the Department of Continuing Education.

'Real Life'

I fit my teaching around my main commitment, which is working for GMAC UK Ltd. I am Director of Business Process Excellence for GMAC International Operations. Much of my work employs the 'Lean Six-Sigma' methodology - having completed by 'black-belt' in Lean Six-Sigma whilst working for Lockheed Martin. I frequently run courses and facilitate workshops on this subject.



Given these commitments I have little time for academic research. However, over the last 3 years I completed an MBA at Henley Business School. The final 'thesis' for this course provided an opportunity for me to combine my interest in business strategy and the use of modelling techniques based on Visual Argumentation.

My MBA work built on my previous research in using a form of Visual Argumentation to construct models of explanatory rationale for large-scale, complex, technology-systems. An introductory paper based on practical industrial experience of the method is available here:

"Why? : Documenting the missing interogative using an Essential Logic Model"

(If you are interested in the use of Visual Argumentation in the domain of Engineering and Design then I would recommend taking a look at the work of Marco Aurisicchio at Imperial College London here)

For my MBA I developed a reusable technique for modelling the business environment called 'PESTLEWeb'. Understanding the context for a business is a crucial step in strategy development and the PESTLEWeb method has proven to be very effective in helping individuals 'think through' and develop coherent arguments about the environment for their businesses.

My MBA thesis is available here: "Is there a better way to model the business environment?"

During 2012 I developed a website to support the research and adoption of PESTLEWeb. This site includes a fully functional graphical editor (what I believe the young folks refer to as 'an app') This 'app' can be used in most web browsers, without installation of software on your local machine. (In other words it is designed to be 'safe' and pain-free!). The website is designed to be quick and easy to use and supports the specific requirements of the PESTLEWeb method.

It should be noted in particular that the PESTLEWeb tool can be used to construct a true 'model' rather than a simple 'drawing': the graphical elements are a view onto a database of supporting information. Links between elements are not 'just lines' - they are a navigable data structure with an independent representation in the meta-model. These features enable re-use, data sharing, consistency and supports 'mining' of common issues and argument threads. As such it makes an interesting link between the domain of 'formal' models (to which my collegues in the Oxford Computing Laboratory have made such a significant contrbution) and models representing 'defeasible argumentation' (which reflects my own interest in Psychology and the 'human' aspects of engineering).

The PESTLEWeb website is free to use and is available at


Building, on the success of the PESTLEWeb site, the underlying technology of the tool has been used on two subsequent projects. Firstly, a tool developed to support my teaching on the Safety Critical Systems course and secondly, a tool to support coaches and tutors help their 'coachees' and students.

The SafetyMapper tool supports use of the 'bow-tie' method to develop safety arguments.

The SafetyMapper tool is available here:

I will be introducing the use of this tool in the next edition of the Safety Critical Systems course. In the meantime I am encouraging professional safety analysts to trial the tool and provide feedback.


Most recently I have been applying the above work to my interest in coaching, tutoring, facilitation and process improvement:

An 'it-will-happen' map is an application of Visual Argumentation that is intended to enable people to 'think through' and logically organise the route to their personal and team goals.

The website technology has undergone several iterations of "User Experience Design" (UXD) improvement and is now proving to be easy to use and useful in practice. Again I am encouraging individuals, coaches and tutors to use this website and provide feedback. I am particularly interested to discover how people learn to visually map their own route map towards goals and objectives.

Contact and Collaboration

Please do contact me via my Linkedin page if you have an interest in any of the items featured on this page. In particular I would like to encourage both further research and practical use of the various tools and websites listed here. So if you are a professional academic, research student or MBA student and would like to investigate the use of PESTLEWeb further, then please do contact me. The same applies if you are interested in using SafetyMapper for teaching, research or in professional practice.

Finally, I would encourage everybody to have a go at the it-will-happen app. So far I have had an excellent response from people who have tried this - both for themselves and for coaching others. If you have an objective or goal to meet (and who has not?) then the tool may be able to help. I would value your feedback so that I can continue to improve both the tool and my own understanding in this area.

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