Assaying the importance of system complexity for the systems engineering community

Matthew W Potts, Pia A Sartor, Angus Johnson, Seth Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

How should organisations approach the evaluation of system complexity at the early stages of system design in order to inform decision making? Since system complexity can be understood and approached in several different ways such evaluation is challenging. In this study we define the term ``system complexity factors'' to refer to a range of different aspects of system complexity that may contribute differentially to systems engineering outcomes. Views on the absolute and relative importance of these factors for early-lifecycle system evaluation are collected and analysed using a qualitative questionnaire of INCOSE members (n=55). We identified and described the following trends in the data: there is little between-participant agreement on the relative importance of system complexity factors, even for participants with a shared background and role; participants tend to be internally consistent in their ratings of the relative importance of system complexity factors. Given the lack of alignment on the relative importance of system complexity factors, we argue that successful evaluation of system complexity can be better ensured by explicit determination and discussion of the (possibly implicit) perspective(s) on system complexity that are being taken.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSystems Engineering
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Complexity Science
  • System Architecture
  • Government
  • Defense
  • Security

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