Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge
Perspectives on EA

Complex Adaptive Systems

Author: Saurabh Mittal, PhD

A complex system, by definition, portrays emergent behavior: a holistic behavior that is irreducible to any of its system sub-components. An adaptive system is a system that situates itself in an environment and through its sensory apparatus, and processing logic, implements action that maximizes its success and function in the dynamic environment. A complex adaptive system (CAS), henceforth, is a system that adapts to the manifested emergent behavior. It is a system built of individual agents or heterogeneous systems, that are capable of adapting, especially in a dynamic environment and develop responses for new effects and act on opportunities. Some of the additional characteristics of CAS include: co-evolution of system components, sub-optimal, variety, connectivity, simplicity in rules governing the interactions and self-organizing.

A netcentric complex adaptive system exists in modern society wherein complex adaptive behavior occurs in a netcentric environment. Any system with a human-in-the-loop is a CAS. Consequently, an enterprise architecture can be deemed as a netcentric complex adaptive system as it involves human capital (at managerial, operational and end-user level), dynamic business processes (its environment) and policies, standards and mechanisms that serve the enterprise and guide how an enterprise architecture “should” adapt. An EA can also be considered as a socio-techno-economic system.

Much of the focus in today’s EA is on technology alignment with the enterprise need and how the technology serves the enterprise. EA must be based on sound system theoretic principles and through a model of an EA that can be analyzed on the basis of CAS principles.

To facilitate the analysis, the areas: executable architectures, analytics automation, Systems Theory and complex adaptive systems concepts, enterprise cognitive systems engineering and multi-level event interoperability, must be engaged to understand various aspects of a netcentric CAS.

Further Reading

  1. Saha, P., A Systems Perspective to Managing Complexity with Enterprise Architecture, IGI Global, 2013
  2. Mittal, S., Netcentric Complex Adaptive Systems, in S.Mittal and J.L.R. Martin, Netcentric System of Systems Engineering with DEVS Unified Process, CRC Press. 2013
  3. Janssen, M., Kuk, G., A Complex Adaptive System Perspective of Enterprise Architecture in Electronic Government, Proceedings of the 39th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2006
Perspectives on EA