A Strategic Adaptation Plan for the Global Systems Engineering Community
As the world becomes more interconnected, changes to environmental, political and socioeconomic interdependencies are becoming increasingly complex. The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) released its Systems Engineering Vision 2035 earlier this year, providing the systems view of current and potential global challenges. A premier professional society for systems engineering, INCOSE challenges the international systems community to anticipate future developments in systems engineering (SE), and has developed several forward-leaning vision documents, such as Vision 2035, that highlights the criticality of the digital transformation to the practice of systems engineering.
Assembled by a team of SE experts and practitioners, Vision 2035 offers a set of recommendations and road maps to help a broad base of stakeholders apply new and emerging practices to meet the challenges facing the SE community. This document also highlights the need for a set of theoretical foundations that are consistently taught and form the basis for application of systems engineering in all domains. Mr. Tom McDermott (SERC Chief Technology Officer) and Dr. Art Pyster (SERC Research Council member) participated on the team that supported the development of the Vision.
Vision 2035 will be an evolving document with an active implementation plan to future-proof the discipline across five areas: expanding the applications for SE; modernizing practices of SE in response to increasing complexity and uncertainty; modernizing SE tools and environments in response to the digital age; expanding research on the theoretical foundations of SE; and bringing SE competencies to all disciplines. Organized into four chapters, the Vision suggests a collaborative approach to advance the SE discipline by aligning initiatives across exploration, power and energy, healthcare, transportation, information, and telecommunications systems.
A few core tenets of Vision 2035 include:
- The global context for SE: The SE discipline must effectively respond to the transformative nature of engineered systems.
- Current state and application of SE practices and how these are adopted across industries, with a focus on critical competencies, practices, and foundations.
- A glimpse into what a systems engineer’s workday could look like in 2035: How will SE practices adapt to and be changed by new technologies? How will SE tools be augmented with data-driven algorithms in future years? What are the inevitable implications for education and lifelong learning?
- The critical need for collaboration among industry, government, academia, and non-profits as the ideal way to execute SE amid growing complexities and risks. Stakeholders for both traditional and non-traditional applications of SE must collaborate, creating opportunities to leverage investments and other resources across domains while retaining the unique needs of each.
Vision 2035 addresses the need for a research agenda and roadmap for SE. Mr. Tom McDermott, who is also the INCOSE Director for Strategic Integration, held a strategy session for INCOSE around the priorities for future SE research. As modeling and simulation, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, big data and analytics, and other technologies continue to advance, they will influence not only individual systems but also the SE discipline as a whole. Dozens of potential research questions were identified during the strategy session. A few consistent themes included:
- organizational adoption of SE
- improved integration of global concerns such as sustainability, justice, or collaboration into SE
- improved integration of data approaches into the discipline of SE (e.g., big data, AI, machine learning, etc.)
- advancing digital modeling and simulation from multiple and integrating these approaches into the discipline of SE
- methods for propagating critical systems skills and approaches into a variety of other disciplines
Each of these areas could generate dozens of research questions, each of which would help advance the discipline toward INCOSE’s Vision 2035. As the networked national resource for systems research, the SERC will continue to align its missions of community growth, competency development, and transformation of SE practice with the future vision of the entire SE community.
Ultimately, to grow the global SE community and develop systems approaches to problems, stakeholders must embrace the idea of leveraging new technologies in collaboration with allied fields to deliver value and respond to inevitable change.