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Analysis and Design
Delineating Systems, Products and Tools
People often confuse the concepts of systems, products, and tools. To facilitate
our discussion, let’s examine each of these terms in detail.
We defined the term system earlier in this section. A system may consist of
two or more integrated elements whose combined—synergistic—purpose
is to achieve mission objectives that may not be effectively or efficiently accomplished
by each element on an individual basis. These systems typically include humans,
products, and tools to varying degrees. In general, human-made systems require
some level of human resources for planning, operation, intervention, or support.
Some systems are created as a work product by other systems. Let’s define
the context of product: a product, as an ENABLING element of a larger system,
is typically a physical device or entity that has a specific capability—form,
fit, and function—with a specified level of performance.
Products generally lack the ability—meaning intelligence—to self-apply
themselves without human assistance. Nor can products achieve the higher level
system mission objectives without human intervention in some form. In simple terms,
we often relate to equipment-based products as items you can procure from a vendor
via a catalog order number. Contextually, however, a product may actually be a
vendor’s “system” that is integrated into a User’s higher-level
system. Effectively, you create a system of systems (SoS).
1. A hammer, as a procurable product has form, fit, and function but lacks
the ability to apply its self to hammering or removing nails.
2. Ajet aircraft, as a system and procurable vendor product, is integrated
into an airline’s system and may possess the capability, when programmed
and activated by the pilot under certain conditions, to fly.
Some systems or products are employed as tools by higher level systems. Let’s
define what we mean by a tool. A tool is a supporting product that enables a user
or system to leverage its own capabilities and performance to more effectively
or efficiently achieve mission objectives that exceed the individual capabilities
of the User or system.
1. A simple fulcrum and pivot, as tools, enable a human to leverage their own
physical strength to displace a rock that otherwise could not be moved easily
by one human.
2. A statistical software application, as a support tool, enables a statistician
to efficiently analyze large amounts of data and variances in a short period of
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