Systems Integration

Systems integration (sometimes called systems engineering) plays a crucial role in the performance aspect of the project. We are using this phrase to include any technical specialist in the science or art of the project who is capable of performing the role of integrating the technical disciplines to achieve the customer's objectives, and/or integrating the project into the customer's system. As such, systems integration is concerned with three major objectives.

I. Performance Performance is what a system does. It includes system design, reliability, quality, maintainability, and repairability. Obviously, these are not separate, independent elements of the system, but are highly interrelated qualities. Any of these system performance characteristics is subject to overdesign as well as underdesign but must fall within the design parameters established by the client. If the client approves, we may give the client more than the specifications require simply because we have already designed to some capability, and giving the client an overdesigned system is faster and less expensive than delivering precisely to specification. At times, the esthetic qualities of a system may be specified, typically through a requirement that the appearance of the system must be acceptable to the client.

2. Effectiveness The objective is to design the individual components of a system to achieve the desired performance in an optimal manner. This is accomplished through the following guidelines:

• Require no component performance specifications unless necessary to meet one or more systems requirements.

• Every component requirement should be traceable to one or more systems requirements.

• Design components to optimize system performance, not the performance of a subsystem.

It is not unusual for clients to violate any or all of these seemingly logical dicta. Tolerances specified to far closer limits than any possible system requirement, superfluous "bells and whistles," and "off the shelf" components that do not work well with the rest of the system are so common they seem to be taken for granted by both client and vendor. The causes of these strange occurrences are probably associated with some combination of inherent distrust between buyer and seller, the desire to overspecify in order "to be sure," and the feeling that "this part will do just as well." As we will see in Chapter 6, these attitudes can be softened and replaced with others that are more helpful to the process of systems integration.

3. Cost Systems integration considers cost to be a design parameter, and costs can be accumulated in several areas. Added design cost may lead to decreased component cost, leaving performance and effectiveness otherwise unchanged. Added design cost may yield decreased production costs, and production cost may be traded off against unit cost for materials. Value engineering (or value analysis) examines all these cost tradeoffs and is an important aspect of systems integration |31). It can be used in any project where the relevant cost tradeoffs can be estimated. It is simply the consistent and thorough use of cost/effectiveness analysis. For an application of value engineering techniques applied to disease control projects, see (13|.

Systems integration plays a major role in the success or failure of any project. If a risky approach is taken by systems integration, it may delay the project. If the approach is too conservative, we forego opportunities for enhanced project capabilities or advantageous project economics. A good design will take all these tradeoffs into account in the initial stages of the technical approach. A good design will also avoid locking the project into a rigid solution with little flexibility or adaptability in case problems occur later on or changes in the environment demand changes in project performance or effectiveness.

The details of systems integration are beyond the scope of this book. The interested reader is referred to [4. 7|. In any case, the ability to do systems integration or engineering depends on at least a minimal level of technical knowledge about most parts of the project. It is one of the reasons project managers are expected to have some understanding of the technology of the projects they head.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment