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Conceiving systems

Hitchins, D.K. (1990). Conceiving systems. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The thesis is concerned with the development of innovative, robust design concepts for a class of systems called Information Decision Action (IDA) Systems. IDA systems are typified by Command and Control (C2) and Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I) systems as used by police, emergency services and the military - the two titles refer respectively to the human activity and the technological systems. The class of systems is much wider, however, and includes, financial, traffic control, business and even governmental systems where information is gathered, used as a basis for human decision-forming, and results in action, all in real, or near-real time. IDA system complexity stems largely from the dominance of robust human activity systems within the overall system, and also from the employment of often-rigid, technology-based, decision support systems which are unable to adapt as swiftly as the humans they serve. The thesis is in two parts. In the first part, the author presents a perspective on "hard" and "soft" systems and the gradual move by so-called "hard" systems engineers towards softer concepts in the search for more satisfactory IDA systems. This progression is presented partly by anecdote, supported by some of the author's papers showing the development of his contribution to understanding of, and partly by an exposition of the essential themes inherent in, IDA systems. Keynote papers in the first part are: MOSAIC: Concepts for the Deployment of Air Power in Europe and The Human Element in C3 I: The first of these presents a highly-survivable alternative to the present force and C2 deployment approaches which have evolved little since World War IT; the second considers the human and his social behaviour as keys to understanding IDA systems. Other papers develop the themes and show their application to systems in which the author has had major involvement The second part is concerned with the process of conceiving and creating IDA systems and it too draws on published papers as direct support for the thesis. Keynote papers here are A General Theory of Command and Control, a unique recent paper which proposes a set of design axioms for an idealized IDA system, the award-winning Managing Systems Creation which presents an engineering framework for Creating Systems, and SEAMS (Systems Engineering, Analysis and Management Support) which signals a major design initiative to develop engineering frameworks into company-wide IT environments. The second part also introduces a complete Conceiving System, called the Seven-Step Continuum (SSC), describes some prototype tools developed by the author to perform some of the tasks of design conception and - in Chapter 9, which is a paper within the thesis - shows results from using the SSC, its methods and tools, in practice. The second part closes with a look forward to the building of flexible future systems which can adapt to their environment.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
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