Engineered Systems

An engineered system is a system designed or adapted to interact with an anticipated operational environment to achieve one or more intended purposes while complying with applicable constraints.

The following may be useful as a working definition that focuses on what it “is”: An engineered system is a composite of people, products, services, information, and processes (and possibly natural components) that provides a capability that satisfies a stated customer need or objective.

Thus, an “engineered system” is a system – not necessarily a technological one - which has been or will be “systems engineered” for a purpose.  Note that the required behaviour of such a system might be achieved by influence and self-organisation, rather than by top-down direction.

The people component can be individuals, roles, organizations, organizational units, governance structures, etc. The products component can be hardware, software, firmware, data, facilities, etc. The services component can be business services, information services, application services, infrastructure services, etc. The information component can be individual information items, information categories, information structures, documentation, knowledge elements, etc. The processes component can be procedures, methods, techniques, work instructions, policies, directives, etc. Capability is an ability to do something in the anticipated operational environment.

The category of “engineered system” includes the sub-categories of products, services and enterprises. Services and enterprises usually depend on technological products but are essentially forms of socio-technical systems.


“Enterprise” is intended to mean a large undertaking, especially one of large scope, complication and risk – “a complex web of interactions distributed across geography and time” (Rebovitch & White, 2011). We do not just mean a large organization, since an enterprise often has multiple organizations that participate in the enterprise to the extent that each organization will derive some benefit from its participation. An enterprise is an endeavour usually requiring special initiative and boldness. Not all large activities are enterprises since their size does not necessarily entail taking large risk or dealing with a complicated situation.


“Service” is intended to mean actions taken to satisfy needs of individuals or organizations.  The term service initially was used in the last century to describe actions which involved no tangible products at all. Early in this century (per Wikipedia at “managed services” emerged as a business model.  The “service economy” (per Wikipedia at has resulted in an evolution in the meaning ascribed to “service”: “The old dichotomy between product and service has been replaced by a service-product continuum. Many products are being transformed into services. The Cambridge dictionary at says service is “work done or help provided, especially for the public or for a person or an organization.”
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