Approaches to software development
Approaches to software development

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Approaches to software development


We define a system as ‘an assembly of components that are connected together in an organised way’. The term ‘organised’ is important here. For example, it tells us that components are affected by being part of a system.

Example 1

A pile of old telephones, exchange-switching gear and wiring that are awaiting disposal may once have been a system. But heaped together, they are not a system. Both the organisation and the connections have been lost.

A system, therefore, is greater than the sum of its parts, and it has properties that cannot be deduced or predicted by examining any one of its components in isolation (or even all of its components, if they are not organised and connected). From the above example, could you deduce the properties of the telephone system by examining a single, disconnected telephone (or even a big pile of disconnected telephones)? No, because it no longer works as expected, even though it has not changed physically (it is not broken).

The assembly of components that forms a system does something, it carries out some process. This process will work on inputs, carry out transformations and produce outputs in order to achieve a goal. If you view your body as a system, it consists of organs, it takes oxygen and food as inputs, and does transformations that keep you alive. As a system, it has a well-defined boundary and a control mechanism that will keep it adapting to changes in the environment.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371