Everyday Computing, Features

Changing Large-scale Systems

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

THE recent announcement by our Prime Minister of a reduction in the VAT, and the conclusion of the US Presidential Election campaign, have shed some light on the manner in which large scale changes are attempted and successfully delivered. You can appreciate that large systems can be difficult to build, understand, and change because of their sheer size and complexity. When you think about managing economies, election campaigns, and even software projects, these may have an air of mystique but somehow, someone is expected to effectively understand and manage these systems. A difficulty shared by such large scale systems is the manner in which the entire system is described and assessed at a high-level, while modified at the low-level in a cohesive and constructive manner.

As a newcomer with the odds stacked against you, how do you grapple with the sheer difficulty of such a formidable task? Specifically, the ease with which we make changes at any lower level that contribute, in an orderly manner, to the improvement of the entire system. Although this sounds confusing and complex, there are particular approaches to resolving the difficulty. Here are a few examples:
* Managing an economy;
* Running an organisation;
* Mounting a political campaign;
* Building software products.

Economists refer to macroeconomics as a high-level concept for dealing with the entire economy, and microeconomics for the lower-level activities which take place within the economy. Boards of directors set the high-level policy for governing organisations, while the management controls the day to day operations. A political plan for change must be sufficiently compelling and cohesive to attract the needed attention and popularity. In computing, software engineers use the concept of a “black box” as a simplifying abstraction to describe the functioning of a system. Using this method, you may focus on the inputs, processes, and the outputs, and usefully hide the irrelevant details that may cause confusion.

Especially to an outsider, it may be difficult to understand changes to complex systems without some means of simplifying the problem and its challenges. When a simplifying model is used, it can help achieve a remarkable breakthrough in explaining and justifying the reasons for change.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and business intelligence.

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