Understanding System Failure

In several discussions that I recently participated in on LinkedIn we agreed a few things:

Any Failure is easily identifiable – (The opposite is NOT TRUE – Success is not easily identifiable.)

Failed launch of a Titan IV carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload on August 12, 1998.

Technical failure is comparatively less severe and can be categorised:

  1. Absolute – Lines down, power off, explosion, etc.
  2. Partial – Slow, features missing, unfriendly
  3. Intermittent – Traffic, volume, time based or cold
  4. Reliability – Uptime below XX.X%, car breaks between services

We also discovered that the human based “error factor” exceed the technical factors in terms of frequency of occurrence, duration to resolution and permanence of resolution.

For clarity I would just like to re-hash a definition I published before.

System – A formalised function, group of functions, tasks or actions performed with the specific intent to achieve a predetermined goal. This can be computer and/or human based.


Let’s start at the beginning – The aim of each and every system is to achieve the following:

To go from what is happening above to what is happening below.

[Source – Localization Industry Standards Association]

So systems should provide the following results:

  1. Simple – opposite of complex, just the essential steps to achieve a result
  2. Repeatable – should be able to do same thing over and over and yield same result
  3. Scalable – should be able to grow and shrink with demand requirement
  4. Reliable – if needed should be available for use and still produce predictable result
  5. Transferable – should be able to be used as parts of other systems or for other “content” / substance / subject matter

So what is the problem?

Or if you prefer

But why?

Which of these describes you (or your friend)?

Simple, Repeatable, Scalable, Reliable and Transferable

I have to admit it is always easier to blame

Have a happy day

Please comment on this.


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