What is System?
The term Concept is derived from the Greek word SYSTEMA. It means an organized relationship among functioning units or components. We can define a System as a combination of resources or functional working together to accomplish a given task.
The term “working together” in system definition is very important as all the components are interrelated and interdependent and can not exist independently. As the definition says, these components interact with each other to accomplish a given task, which is actually the objective of the system.
The components that comprise a system may be the various inputs required by the system, the outcomes or the outputs of the system, the resources required to make the system functional etc.
Components and Characteristics of System
A big system may be seen as a set of interacting smaller systems known as subsystems or functional units each of which has its defined tasks. All these work in coordination to achieve the overall objective of the system.
As discussed above, a system is a set of components working together to achieve some goal. The basic elements of the system may be listed as:
Resources: Every system requires certain resources for the system to exist. Resources can be hardware, software or liveware. Hardware resources may include the computer, its peripherals, stationery etc.
Software resources would include the programs running on these computers and the livewere would include the human beings required to operate the system and make it functional. Thus these resources make an important component of any system.
For instance, a Banking system cannot function without the required stationery like cheque books, pass books etc. such systems also need computers to maintain their data and trained staff to operate these computers and cater to the customer requirements.
Procedures: Ever system functions under a set of rules that ‘govern the system to accomplish the defined goal of the system. This set of rules defines the procedures for the system to operate. For instance, the Banking systems have their predefined rules for providing interest at different rates for different types of accounts.
Data/Information: Every system has some predefined goal. For achieving the goal the system requires certain inputs, which are converted into the required output. The main objective of the System is to produce some useful output. Output. is the outcome of processing, Output can be of any nature e.g. goods, services or information. However, the Output must conform to the customer’s expectations. Inputs are the elements that enter the system and produce Output. Input can be of various kinds, like material, information, etc.
Intermediate Data: Various processes process system’s Inputs. Before it is transformed into Output, it goes through many intermediary transformations. Therefore, it is very important to identify the Intermediate Data.
For example, in a college when students register for a new semester, the initial form submitted by student goes through many departments. Each department adds their validity checks on it. Finally the form gets transformed and the student gets a slip that states whether the student has been registered for the requested subjects or not. It helps in building the System in a better way.
Intermediate forms of data occur when there is a lot of processing on the input data. So, intermediate data should be handled as carefully as other data since the output depends upon it.
Process: The systems have some processes that make use of the resources to achieve the set goal under the defined procedures. These processes are the operational element of the system. For instance in a Banking System there are several processes that are carried out.
Consider for example the processing of a cheque as a process. A cheque passes through several stages before it actually gets processed and converted. These are some of the processes of the Banking system.
All the components together make a complete functional system. Systems also exhibit certain features and characteristics, some of which are:
- Boundaries and interfaces
Objective: Every system has a predefined goal or objective towards which it works. A system cannot exist without a defined objective. For example an organization would have an objective of earning maximum possible revenues, for which each department and each individual has to work in coordination.
Standards: It is the acceptable level of performance for any system. Systems should be designed to meet standards. Standards can be business specific or organization specific.
For example take a sorting problem. There are various sorting algorithms. But each has its own complexity. So such algorithm should be used that gives most optimum efficiency. So there should be a standard or rule to use a particular algorithm. It should be seen whether that algorithm is implemented in the system.
Environment: Every system whether it is natural or man made co-exists with an environment. It is very important for a system to adapt itself to its environment. Also, for a system to exist it should change according to the changing environment.
For example, we humans live in a particular environment. As we move to other places, there are changes in the surroundings but our body gradually adapts to the new environment. If it were not the case, then it would have been very difficult for human to survive for so many thousand years.
Another example can be Y2K problem for computer systems. Those systems, which are not Y2K compliant, will not be able to work properly after year 2000. For computer systems to survive it is important these systems are made Y2K compliant or Y2K ready.
Feedback: Feedback is an important element of systems. The output of a system needs to be observed and feedback from the output taken so as to improve the system and make it achieve the laid standards. Also some feedback can come from the customer (regarding quality) or it can be some intermediate data (the output of one process and input for the other) that is required to produce final output.
Boundaries and Interfaces: Every system has defined boundaries within which it operates. Beyond these limits, the system has to interact with the other systems. For instance, the Personnel system in an organization has its work domain with defined procedures. If the financial details of an employee are required, the system has to interact with the Accounting system to get the required details.
Interfaces are to another important element which the system the outside world. The system interacts with other systems through its interfaces. Users of the systems also interact with it through interfaces. Therefore, these should be customized to the user’s needs. There should be as user-friendly as possible.