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What Is a System

What Is a System

Right behind "thing" as the most confusing word in the English language, "system" can mean just about anything for software. This uncertainty has historically been a root cause of problems in understanding software requirements. So, we will define it here for our purposes.

From business systems theory, a general definition is useful.

Kerzner says that a system is a group of elements organized and arranged so that the elements can act as a whole toward achieving a common goal; is a collection of interacting subsystems; and has boundaries that define it as an open system (which interacts with the surrounding environment) or a closed system (which is isolated from the surrounding environment).

IEEE defines a system as a collection of components organized to accomplish a specific function or set of functions.

This means that any collection of organized elements oriented towards a goal can be a system. In software project management, we can have many systems: change management system, cost management system, configuration management system, project management information system, and performance measurement system.

We think of the software products of our projects as systems, often consisting of hardware, software, and processes.

A key point about systems is that they have boundaries and may or may not interact with their surrounding environments. If they can stand alone and function independently they are closed systems. If they must interact with their environment to be effective they are open systems.

No matter whether the products created by a software project are closed or open systems, programs and projects are almost always open systems, as much of the project manager's job involves interacting with other people and systems in a business environment.

Our definition of the term will be: A system is an organized group of elements with a boundary defining openness or closeness that acts as a whole toward achieving a common goal.

It is important for software project managers to understand the basic nature of systems as they run programs and projects made up of many interacting systems in organizations consisting of many interacting systems. This is why their jobs are so complex.

Now we have a reliable language that contains a basic set of PM terms. Next, we will turn to brief descriptions of the SWPM essential software project management competencies, and how they will be addressed in this blog. Each SLC phase needs the use of more than one competency, and each competency is used in more than one phase. The sections are arranged to follow an SLC sequence, each section addressing applicable PM skills. As described earlier in this section, our focus is quality, software, project, and management. Quality underlies all; software (product), project, and management (people) each have a number of skills that should be possessed or obtained by a project manager. So, we will begin with a brief description of software, or product, competencies.



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software project management, slc phase, swpm
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