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Successful IT systems
Successful IT systems

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2.2 Components of an IT system

Given the above definition of a system and its related components, and given that an IT system is necessarily sociotechnical, what might be the basic components of a core IT system? As we have remarked above, this depends on the way the system is defined by an observer. But we would suggest that any IT system will have three core components:

  • the technology of the system: the software, hardware, networks and other infrastructure which go to make it up. A few years ago this largely meant fixed networks of PCs in most organisations, with large mainframes performing back-end tasks. The rise of mobile and wireless devices, and the importance of the cloud for information storage and processing, have changed this significantly, and there are currently many possible combinations of hardware and software.
  • the organisation where the system is used and developed. The success of a system in use depends a lot upon how well it fits with the need of this organisation, and the way it is organised.
  • the people involved in the system: technical staff (such as developers, maintainers and support staff); end users; managers; training staff; and many other groups.

The basic structure of an IT system with these three core components, showing their influences on each other, might look something like Figure 1.

Described image
Figure 1 The main components of an IT system

This course will make the case throughout that all three of these components are important in considering the nature of an IT system and in making it successful. It is not sufficient to consider the technology as the core of the system and the organisational and people aspects as secondary – they are all three interrelated.

Activity 4

Timing: 10 minutes

Do you think these are sufficient components of an IT system? What other components might you want to add? Write down these additional components.


You may well have come up with other components as being important, but in our view they can usually be seen as subsystems of the three main components of Technology, Organisation and People.