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4. How do models help?

One of the keys to handling complexity is developing fitting models. A model is an abstraction of reality. It contains only those elements of reality that are necessary to describe the system of interest. For example, the earth is modeled in abstract by a globe. Water is a reality represented by the chemical model of H2O. On your desktop PC, icons model applications (MS Word, e-mail, web browser, etc.). Organization charts model corporate structures and paper planes depict jetliners.

Models may employ many ingredients. Some use mathematics, some symbols. Images, statistics, persons, and prototypes, miniatures and mock-ups all can be used as models. Models help us to comprehend, to communicate, and to handle complexity.

Since 1984, Laura Brown has helped businesses and technical managers deliver systems solutions, and has worked as management consultant and senior technical advisor to Fortune 500 companies. She is President of System Innovations, a consulting firm specializing in enterprise application integration, data warehousing, and Internet design.

Laura is the author of Integration Models: Templates for Business Integration (2000, Sams Publishing).

Laura can be reached via e-mail at lbrown@systeminnovations.net, or on the web at www.systeminnovations.net/.

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