The concept of problem complexity

Alejandro Salado, Roshanak Nilchiani

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Recognizing the impact of system complexity on the success of a system's development has created significant research efforts towards measuring system complexity In particular, the research community has proposed techniques to measure three types of system complexity (1) structural complexity, which measures the complexity resulting from physical interconnection of components, (2) functional complexity, which measures the complexity resulting from interconnection of system functions, and (3) organizational complexity, which measures the contractual interconnection of the different organizations developing the system The majority of these metrics focus on measuring aspects of the complexity of an existing system or design However, a metric to anticipate the complexity induced by the problem itself on a system's development is lacking We therefore present the concept of Problem Complexity as the complexity level that a set of requirements can impose to any system fulfilling them In addition, we mathematically demonstrate using the concept of joint entropy how problem complexity defines the minimum level of complexity a system can achieve for a given set of requirements The paper suggests an analytic formulation to measure the complexity induced by a set of requirements in a system's development that is based on a set of heuristics that facilitate identification of conflicts between requirements The use of such analytical formulation is showcased on a notional case-study

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-546
Number of pages8
JournalProcedia Computer Science
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event12th Annual Conference on SystemsEngineering Research, CSER 2014 - Redondo Beach, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 21 2014Mar 22 2014


  • Entropy
  • Problem definition
  • System complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science


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