The wikpedia page list seven definitions, none of which are intuitive .
I think the picture becomes clearer if the approach, the stakeholders and their goals are introduced together:
Why do we need Systems of Systems theory: When we put these systems together, we can’t design the system of systems using the same approach as we designed the systems themselves.
The uncertainties about how things work are bigger both because of larger timescales and more interactions, the components are independent and perhaps outside our control and the components are too heterogeneous to fit one “component” template which we can reason from.
How to approach it: The solutions for building and handling systems of systems seems to boil down to taking more of a management than engineering approach.
It’s like managing a team, not like connecting software modules.
But also to jump up and down between levels and consider what the effects of different actions will be.
Multiple conflicting objectives will have to be optimized.
What the researcher actually do: A lot of complex systems problems tend to end up as the kind of problems management and politicians have always faced.
If you examine the above summary, Systems of systems seem to be no exception.
Despite this, you’ll have researchers chasing a grand unified theory of systems of systems.
A similar goal as general systems theory, cybernetics, meta-system theory, complex systems, viable systems approach, autopoiesis and a host of other schools have sought throughout the 20th century.
It is therefore no surprise that there are many modelling tools and theoretical foundations to draw on when studying SoS.
What flavour of SoS you encounter will depend on which of these theories got imported.
Importantly, this let a researcher keep working in her old field but in a fairly honest way re-brand it as SoS.
She would like to do this because SoS has been occupying the spotlight since the US military latched onto the term.
It is probably a natural continuation of their “network warfare” focus from the 90′s, which also focused on semi-independent but interacting components.
What the practicioners actually do: Wikipedia states that “systems of systems engineering”: “should enable the decision-makers to understand the implications of various choices”.
This re-inforces the impression that SoS is about management, the quote is really a description of what a management consultant promise to offer.
In short: What refers to itself as SoS will tend to be a background theory for helping management and politicians ponder large complex projects and issues.
 System of systems
 System of systems engineering
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