System of Systems (SoS) (glossary)

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(1) Two or more systems that are separately defined but operate together to perform a common goal. (Checkland 1999)

(2) an assemblage of components which individually may be regarded as systems, and which possess two additional properties:

(a) Operational Independence of the Components: If the system-of-systems is disassembled into its component systems the component systems must be able to usefully operate independently. That is, the components fulfill customer-operator purposes on their own.

(b) Managerial Independence of the Components: The component systems not only can operate independently, they do operate independently. The component systems are separately acquired and integrated but maintain a continuing operational existence independent of the system-of-systems. (Maier 1998, 267-284)

(3) System‐of‐systems applies to a system‐of‐interest whose system elements are themselves systems; typically these entail large scale inter‐disciplinary problems with multiple, heterogeneous, distributed systems. (INCOSE 2012)


(1) Checkland, P. B. 1999. Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

(2) Maier, M. W. 1998. "Architecting principles for systems-of-systems." Systems Engineering, the Journal of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) 1 (4).

(3) INCOSE. 2012. Systems Engineering Handbook: A Guide for System Life Cycle Processes and Activities, version 3.2.2. San Diego, CA, USA: International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), INCOSE-TP-2003-002-03.2.2


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