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What is System ? | Meaning, Definition, Element & Types of System


What is System ?

The Greek word 'systema' is the origin of the word 'system'. System is a group of resources which work collectively in order to produce desired output from given inputs. It receives input and produces the output. The components of the systems are interconnected and work together to achieve a common objective.

Meaning of System

Modern technology, human society, and physical and biological sciences include of systems such as, the biological system of the human body, the socio-economic system of a business organisation, the technological system of an oil refinery, and the physical system of the sun and its planets.

Systems can also be defined as, "An association of elements or components, organised for a common goal. In other words, "group of elements which are organised for a common objective is known as a 'system'.

Definitions of System

Following are the Definition of system by different authors :

According to Ackoff's :
"A system is a set of two or more elements that satisfies the following conditions: 
  1. The behavior of each element has an effect on the behavior of the whole.
  2. The behavior of the elements and their effect on the whole are interdependent.
  3. However sub-groups of elements are formed, each has an effect on the behavior of the whole and none has an independent effect on it".

According to Weinberg :
"A system is a collection of parts, none of which can be changed on its own." 

According to Wieringa :
"A system is any actual or possible part of reality that, if it exists, can be observed." 

A computer system is a group of hardware and software components. The hardware components of the computer system are selected in such a way that they all function well collectively, and also with the software components of the computer.

Element of System

The various elements of systems in MIS are as follows :

1) Inputs and Outputs : 
The inputs' are those elements which enter any stream from outside. These inputs can be in various forms such as human efforts, physical items or the information. Further, the system works on the inputs to produce the desired results known as 'output'. The outputs can be anything, information, materials or services.

2) Processors : 
The processor is that element which performs the operation on the inputs to produce the outputs (desired result). Machines, people are the example of processor.

3) Control : 
Control elements are the logical procedures, rules and regulations which direct and manage the processing of the inputs in order to produce the desired outputs. The inputs and processors are checked, processed, managed and administer by the control elements.

4) Feedback : 
Feedback is the measurement of outputs against some set of standard benchmarks. The comparison of systems performance with some set benchmarks acts as the basis of the feedback. The feedback is positive or feed-forward when it increases the inputs, and when the input is reduced then it is negative. The role of feedback is not only to change the inputs but many times it is done only to get the information.

5) Environment : 
To function, every system required a specific environment. A group of elements forms the environment. The system is surrounded by these elements and interaction also takes place between them. There are various types of systems and environments for a specific problem.
Though environment interacts with the system yet it does not belongs to the system in any aspect. The elements outside the system but not interacting with the system are also the part of environment.
For example, the environment of a system includes customers, competitors, government and regulatory bodies, customers and vendors.

6) Boundaries and Interface : 
The 'boundaries' of system are the limits within which system works. "Interface is the element which is helpful in the interaction between the system and environment' outside the boundaries.
The boundary is created by the features which define and outline a system. The part which is outside the boundary is termed as the environment whereas the inside part is system. The identification of the part that belongs to the system or not, is very simple in few cases. Generally, the boundaries are randomly defined by the person who observes the system.
When one system interacts with the other system, then its boundaries should be clearly defined, i.e., the limits that identify its components, processes, and interrelationship between them.

Types of System

Though for the classification of system, no standard benchmark is defined, yet the systems are categorized on the basis of various measures and norms. Following are the basis 3 types of system are as follows :
Classification by Form and Appearance
Classification by Existence
Classification by Boundary

Classification by Existence 

The systems existing in nature are not made by the people but are able to meet their personal requirements. Such system is categorized as :

1) Natural Systems : 
The systems existing in the 'nature' are natural systems. These are not artificial nature. The natural system's exists because of the natural processes. The various examples of the natural systems are listed below : 
  • Stellar Systems : Galaxies, solar systems etc. 
  • Geological Systems: Rivers, mountain ranges, etc. 
  • Biological Systems : Humans.
  • Molecular Systems : Complex organizations of atoms.
All plants and animals, including human race, are included in it. The man-made systems can be better understood and demonstrated with the help of properties and characteristics of the familiar living systems.

2) Man-Made Information Systems : 
Systems created by human beings are known as man made information system. These systems are artificial and have the broad variety of capabilities.
Since, all the man-made systems are present within the natural world hence various interfaces are required to be addressed. Man-made systems include several things as : 
  • Social Systems : Organisations of laws, doctrines, customs, and so on.
  • Transportation Systems : Networks of highways, canals, airlines and so on.
  • Communication Systems : Telephone, telex and so on.
  • Manufacturing Systems : Factories, assembly lines, and so on. 
  • Financial Systems : Accounting, inventory, general ledger and so on.

Classification by Form and Appearance

Depending upon the form and appearance, there are two categories of systems :

1) Physical Systems : 
Physical systems may appear as materials and items as they are certain, evident and tangible entities. A physical system can be both static and dynamic. Static is one which remains unaffected of the time and input, e.g., physical parts of a production plant like machines, tables, trolleys whereas dynamic system that fluctuates with the time and input throughout, such as program of a Programmable Logic Circuit (PLC) which changes as per user needs and inputs.

2) Abstract Systems : 
The non-physical or conceptual entities form the abstract systems. The abstract systems are those systems which include abstract conceptualization of physical situations.
For example, a business model is a conceptualization of the business organisation, and hence an abstract system. An algorithm used for solving a problem or an equation written to represent a physical system is another example of an abstract system.
The abstraction of complex systems into model form uses various business models. Some significant models are : 

i) Schematic Models : 
The system elements and their relationships are shown by a schematic model, which is two dimensional chart.

ii) Flow System Models : 
A flow system model is the representation of the flow of the material, energy, and information which intact the system. In flow system model the flow of logic is systematic. PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) is a very popular example of this system.

iii) Static System Models : 
Paired relationships such as either activity-time or cost-quantity are shown by static system model. One such example is Gantt chart, which shows a static depiction of an activity-time relationship.

iv) Dynamic System Models : 
One of the best examples of dynamic system model is business organisation. The categories of organisation or applications, dealt by the analysts, are predicted here. This model illustrates the ongoing, constantly varying system.

Classification by Boundary

Depending upon the boundary, the system is categorized in two types:

1) Closed Systems : 
The systems which separate or cut-off themselves from the environment and do not interact with the surroundings are known as 'closed systems'. Hence, the closed system is not affected by the alterations taking place in the environment as it is separated from the system. Generally, people prefer open systems only, as closed systems are available in limited quantity.

Features of Closed System :
  • Outside the system there is no loss of energy
  • Entropy remains constant
  • Remains unaffected by the changes occurring in the environment.

2) Open Systems : 
The open systems are the ones which interact with their environment constantly and freely. They take input from the surroundings and give output back to the surroundings. The open system adapt changes according to the environment to avoid the label of being obsolete or not up-to-date.Human being is an example of open system. It returns the output to and takes inputs from the surroundings.

To accomplish its objectives, the open system has to communicate with the environment (which is not located inside of the boundaries of the system). As information system produces output by taking input from the environment, it is an open system.

Features of Open System : 

Various features of open system are as follows :

i) Inputs from Outside : 
The inputs of open system are taken from the environment and processed in the system so as to produce the outputs. The system is brought to a stable state by this process which is continuous in nature.

ii) Entropy : 
Entropy is the degree of inadequacy occurring due to loss of energy. The output remains the same as the increase in the inputs recovers the energy lost during the working of the system.

iii) Process, Output and Cycles : 
The processes of system are cyclic in nature and also are repeated at same frequency. These processes produce the desired outputs.

iv) Differentiation : 
The differentiation between its components can be done by the open systems. These can also perform specialized functions.

v) Equifinality : 
The goals are achieved by the open systems by considering various techniques and paths. However, the path taken for achieving the goal may change but the goal remains the same.

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