Systems Engineering Trends

In broad terms, most system developers are attempting to make continuous improvements in their systems engineering capabilities and processes. When successful, they lead to building systems within the specified and required constraints of time (schedule), cost (budget), and technical performance.

12.2.1 International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)

In the early 1990s, a new organization, the National Council on Systems Engineering (NCOSE), was formed to recognize the disciplines of systems engineering and improve its practice. Changing its name and scope, the current INCOSE has made important contributions to the field of systems engineering.

As an example, the inaugural issue [12.1] of the Journal of INCOSE dealt with the following selected issues:

• The basics of systems engineering

• Systems architecting

• Relationships between systems and software engineering

• Model-based systems engineering

• Systems thinking

Moving forward in time to the 5th Annual International Symposium of INCOSE [12.2], we see the following selected topics listed in the technical program:

• Systems engineering management

• Systems engineering tools

• Systems engineering processes and methods

• Requirements management

• Measurement

• Emerging applications

• Education and training

The comprehensive scope of INCOSE considerations is likely to make it an important force in the development and application of the discipline of systems engineering for many years to come. The professional systems engineer is thus encouraged to join INCOSE and participate in its activities.

12.2.2 System of Systems (S2) Engineering

Many practitioners of systems engineering have, in effect, been working on a ''system of systems.'' Very large systems tend to be systems of systems, such as our national communications system and our national air transportation system. But even in a much narrower context, we also find systems of systems. An example is the national air defense system with its many elements that deal with threat warning, attack assessment, and system response.

As we move more into the ''information age,'' we are finding large numbers of information ''systems of systems.'' Examples include the National Information Infrastructure or Highway, the Internet, and other customized networks, and the merging of computers and communications technologies and systems.

With the emergence and prevalence of systems of systems, the matter of how the systems engineer and project manager should deal with this situation has arisen. A partial response is the notion of system of systems (S2) engineering.

A system of systems perspective is applicable when one or more of the following circumstances is operative [12.3]:

• A variety of related systems are being acquired independently, with each such system subject to the usual systems engineering disciplines

• The schedule relationship between the related systems is arbitrary and asynchronous

• There is an overriding system of systems mission, that is, each system must interoperate with the others so as to provide and integrate capability and response

For the previous situations, the recommended structure [12.3] for system of systems engineering contains the elements shown in Exhibit 12.1. These elements are to be performed by a systems engineering team that has the charter to attempt to optimize the performance, schedule, and cost of the system of systems. In addition, it is suggested that these elements be supported by a set of systems engineering tools (see Section 12.2.7).

Exhibit 12.1: Elements of Systems of Systems (S2) Engineering

1. Integration engineering

1.1 Requirements

1.2 Interfaces

1.3 Interoperability

1.4 Impacts

1.5 Testing

1.6 Software verification and validation

1.7 Architecture development

2. Integration management

2.1 Scheduling

2.2 Budgeting/costing

2.3 Configuration management

2.4 Documentation

3. Transition management

3.1 Transition planning

3.2 Operations assurance

3.3 Logistics planning

3.4 Preplanned product improvement (P3I)

Building upon these notions of S2 engineering is that of Rapid Computer-Aided System of Systems Engineering (RCASSE). This construction recognizes that system development schedules for large-scale systems are rarely satisfied. This leads to situations in which by the time a system is fielded, it is almost obsolete, especially in the domain of information technologies.

RCASSE emphasizes a rapid, disciplined, and computer-supported design process, with the following ten steps executed over a nominally specified six-month period [12.4]:

1. Mission engineering

2. Baseline architecting

3. Performance assessment

4. Specialty engineering

5. Interfaces/compatibility evaluation

6. Software issues/sizing

7. Risk definition/mitigation

8. Scheduling

9. Preplanned product improvement (P3I) 10. Life-cycle cost-issue assessment

This reengineering of the more conventional systems engineering process is designed to be used when there exist:

• A system of systems situation

• Extreme schedule pressure

• A sophisticated development team with access to and experience with a variety of systems engineering tools

It focuses on only the essential elements in an attempt to converge quickly on a baseline system that satisfies the requirements.

It may be expected that further efforts to adapt the elements of systems engineering to a system of systems environment will be forthcoming as we continue to be faced with situations of this nature and the problems that they entail.

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