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Analytical Representation of a System

As an abstraction we symbolically represent a system as a simple entity by using a rectangular box as shown in Figure 1. In general, inputs such as stimuli and cues are fed into a system that processes the inputs and produces an output. As a construct, this symbolism is acceptable; however, the words need to more explicitly identify WHAT the system performs. That is, the system must add value to the input in producing an output.

We refer to the transformational processing that adds value to inputs and produces an output as a capability. You will often hear people refer to this as the system’s functionality; this is partially correct. Functionality only represents the ACTION to be accomplished; not HOW WELL as characterized by performance. This text employs capability as the operative term that encompasses both the functionality and performance attributes of a system.

The simple diagram presented in Figure 1 represents a system. However, from an analytical perspective, the diagram is missing critical information that relates to how the system operates and performs within its operating environment. Therefore, we expand the diagram to identify these missing elements. The result is shown in Figure 2. The attributes of the construct—which include desirable/undesirable inputs, stakeholders, and desirable/undesirable outputs—serve as a key checklist to ensure that all contributory factors are duly considered when specifying, designing, and developing a system.

Basic System Entity Construct
Figure 1 - Basic System Entity Construct

Analytical System Entity Construct
Figure 2 - Analytical System Entity Construct


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