Complexity

Resilience is the key to survival in an increasingly complex and networked world

Resilient organisations are able to adapt swiftly to changes in their external environment. In contrast, brittleness and inflexibility are characteristics of complex systems that lack adequate modularity and redundancy.

S23M assists customers in transitioning to understandable structures and systems that have an appropriate level of modularity and redundancy.

  1. Modularity enables organisational structures and systems to remain understandable by humans. Modular systems can be easily updated to a new configuration.

    Caveat: modularity without redundancy leads to unstable and unreliable system behaviour (brittleness). For example, a lack of redundancy can lead to single head of knowledge problems and to a system architecture that enables a failure of one component to trigger a high impact cascade of further component failures.

  2. Redundancy enables resilience in the context of an unstable environment. Resilient systems offer an appropriate level of redundancy at all levels of abstraction: replicated skill sets within teams, redundant software designs for critical elements with high availability requirements, and physical redundancy of hardware to minimise the impact of hardware failure.

    Caveat: Redundancy without modularity leads to organisational structures and systems that are no longer understandable by humans, and are impossible to maintain as a result. Monolithic structures and ad-hoc levels of redundancy lead to a complexity overhead in management and to opaque organisations and systems that cannot be adapted to a new context in a timely and economic manner.

The following parameters are typically beyond the control of system designers:

  • The level of stability and the expected rate of change in the wider system context
  • The overall impact and cost in the event of a system failure of a given magnitude on all parties in the wider system context

Therefore, whether an adaptive and resilient system state is achievable depends on whether:

  • Sufficient domain expertise is available for realistic assessment of the parameters that are beyond control
  • Sufficient resources and skills are available to improve and then maintain modularity and redundancy on an ongoing basis

We turned to S23M to streamline product development across our Centres of Excellence. S23M expertise proved to be invaluable for making complex decisions about product architecture, choice of development locations, and the best use of modern software engineering technologies. The thorough and pragmatic approach taken by S23M assisted us in achieving our ambitious goals.

Des Odell, Executive Officer, Solution 6 Holdings Limited [now Aderant]

Feedbacks in social-ecological systems

Two kinds of feedback loops in social-ecological systems are often ignored:

  1. Feedbacks across different levels of scale, and
  2. Feedbacks between ecological and social systems.
Identifying feedback loops across different levels of scale is challenging in any domain involving complex systems. Typically experts focus on one particular level of scale and assume the next level up or down is well taken care of by experts in corresponding domains/disciplines. There is always room for improving inter-disciplinary collaboration.

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