Architecting Systems – concepts, principles and practice   by Hillary Sillitto

“A rich compendium of cool stuff” – Doug McDavid, Enterprise Architect.

“This book represents a major advance in the literature of systems of which architecting is a major part. The previous book on this subject by Rechtin (1991) set the stage for architecting by stressing the importance of heuristics in architecting. The Sillitto book brings the subject up to date with the addition of major aspects of architecting including the consideration of complexity, resilience engineering, socio-environmental systems, the enterprise perspective, agile systems, and many other aspects. This book is a major achievement.”

– Scott Jackson, INCOSE Fellow and author of “Architecting Resilient Systems”

Published by College Publications, 2014.   ISBN 978-1-84890-154-4

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What do the Wall Street “Flash Crash”, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the community on the remote Scottish island of St Kilda, have in common? They’re all complex systems that failed in unexpected ways because critical interdependencies weren’t understood properly.

Why do so many big projects overspend and over-run? They’re managed as if they were merely complicated when in fact they are complex. They’re planned as if everything was known at the start when in fact they involve high levels of uncertainty and risk.

In a rapidly changing world, how do you plan for success and create adaptable, resilient, sustainable systems that will achieve their purpose without adverse unintended consequences?

Based on the author’s extensive experience as a practical engineer and thought-leader in the systems business, this book provides a highly readable synthesis of the foundations for architecting systems. Starting from a clear set of systems principles and insights into the nature of complexity, the “six step architecting process” will help you to unravel complexity and to architect systems of any type, scale and socio-technical mix. It’s illustrated with numerous examples ranging from familiar domestic situations through software-dependent products and services to ultra-large-scale sociotechnical networks spanning the planet.

This book is required reading for engineers, managers, clients and leaders of change faced with the challenges of developing systems for the 21st Century. It gives architecting teams and their stakeholders a common understanding of the why, the what, and the how of architecting systems fit for the future.


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Print issues: There was a printing problem with the first books printed, resulting in two blank or incompletely printed pages. If you were unfortunate enough to be affected by this, you can download replacement pages here: p257 and p336 – print at 100% scale and trim to fit.

December 2017: I’ve just learnt that some copies of my book have been sold from with only 288 of the 394 pages – the back of the book is missing.
If this has affected you I can only apologise profusely!
If you bought a faulty copy, and not yet had it replaced by the reseller, please contact College Publications with details of your purchase, using the contact details here

They will arrange for a replacement hard copy to be sent to you, and also a free electronic copy.

For other customers, you can now buy the digital version direct from College Publications using the same link.

Praise for this book

Really timely, useful and comprehensive.

 Jim Mather, former Scottish Government Minister for Enterprise

A great piece of work…seamlessly captures the need to bring both the human and technical aspects of systems design into a single discipline…should be mandatory reading for all future Chief Technical Officers and Chief Information Officers.

Duncan Bremner, Senior Project Manager, CENSIS Innovation Centre, Glasgow

This book succeeds in being valuable for experienced System Engineers, revisiting the foundations in a brilliant synthetic way, as well as allowing young system engineers to build their knowledge on a sound basis. I initially intended to go through the book quite quickly but found it so well written that I read it all.

Pascal Foix, Vice President (Systems), Thales Group

Successful large scale complex systems are not the result of magical activity. They are the result of deep analysis, excellent engineering and well managed processes based on a wide range of experiences. This book takes a significant leap forward by making the available wisdom accessible to academics and practitioners to help them make the world a better place for us all.

Brian Collins, CB FREng, Professor of Engineering Policy, UCL

If you want to master Architecting then read this book. It’s full of great ideas on what works and what doesn’t, key principles to keep in mind, and the important concepts that will keep you thinking in the right way.

James Martin, Enterprise Architect, INCOSE Fellow

An excellent reference text with a wealth of information about methods and approaches, letting users make their own judgment as to how a particular method might work for them. A lot of wisdom presented in an informal way.

Panos Papalambros, University of Michigan

A wealth of practical information about systems and architecting, organized and described in an accessible way. I like the broad range of systems considered, including complex and human-centered systems; and the common features and patterns of systems across this range. This book builds on the foundations of systems and architecting, and refreshes and expands the subject matter to better serve 21st century society and its complexities.

Duane Hybertson, The MITRE Corporation, INCOSE Fellow

The author draws on his extensive experience in the field to put forward a message which is both comprehensive in scope and practical in its treatment of detail. The combined effect is deeply impressive. It deserves to be bought and read widely: by practising engineers who will wish to have their own copy close at hand, and by managers and clients who should dip into it to understand how to create the conditions for project success.

Peter Brook, FREng, Dashwood Consulting, former Head of MOD Integration Authority

I think it’s a brilliant and really important book for professionals from any domain who need to get to grips with professional learning and make leadership decisions in complex situations.  It’s a practical and thoughtful guide to developing the capabilities and skills required to look at the whole as well as the parts, to understand feedback loops and to arrive at solutions which are ‘fit for purpose’.  An essential read.

Ruth Deakin-Crick, University of Bristol


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For educational bulk discounts please contact College Publications