Development of 3-Year Roadmap to Transform the Discipline of Systems Engineering
Systems Engineering and Systems Management Transformation
Report Number: SERC-2010-TR-006-1
Publication Date: 2010-03-31
Project: A 3-Year Roadmap to Transform the Discipline of SE
Dr. Jon Wade
Dr. Azad Madni
As systems continue to grow in size and complexity, it has become clear that existing Systems Engineering (SE) methods, processes and tools are becoming increasingly inadequate. The SET project is intended to identify the gaps and bring about the necessary transformation in Systems Engineering to satisfy the needs of the complex system’s life cycle. Accomplishing this transformation requires a fundamental rethinking of current SE practices. The SET project is focused on first principles and stripping away non-essential activities while being cognizant of recent trends in SE. A number of trends collectively accelerate this challenge. Growing system complexity and criticality raise vulnerability. The ascendancy of software as the preferred solution continues in the face of significant gaps in our ability to understand, validate and manage large evolving software ecosystems. The increasing speed of technological change, the rapid evolution of threats, and the decreasing schedules for development all lead to the sense that time itself is compressing. New systems envisioned by the defense and intelligence communities reflect, embrace and reinforce these trends. The SET project identified specific characteristics of the SE transformation that are embodied in the following attributes:
- Agile: Allowing for quality, timely development with an incomplete and changing set of system requirements.
- Integrated: Part of the main development process and not an additional set of discretionary tasks.
- Efficient: Providing the greatest amount of benefits with the minimal number of steps and least amount of effort.
- Leveraged: Enabling exponential capability growth through the leveraging of computational and information technologies, and prior systems experience.
- Extensible: Providing the ability to expand and enhance capabilities for future growth without having to make major changes in the infrastructure.
- Deployable: Enabling widespread impact through workforce education and broad application.
Our analysis of existing Systems Engineering methods, processes and tools has identified significant gaps and a set of eight research thrusts to begin addressing those gaps. These research thrusts are the core components of an integrated, modular road map toward SE transformation. A workshop held with the sponsor confirmed the relevance of these research thrusts and provided the necessary input that resulted in their refinement and the creation of the overall framework.
The resulting SE research framework is shown in the figure below. Central to this framework is a model and data repository, simulation and communication substrate that provides the ability for the various tool sets and capabilities to synchronize and interoperate. Each of the research areas may address systems composed of arbitrary combinations of hardware, software, human agents, and governance systems. The systems being developed may be a complex system of systems, a standalone platform or a rapid response action.
The Prioritization & Tradeoff Analysis module provides the capability to input the particular factors relating to the relative value and priority of high-level capabilities of the system under development. The Concept Engineering module provides an interactive, collaborative, multimedia environment to multiple stake holders, along with a library of concept modules, and Reuse and Synthesis capabilities to quickly construct concepts of operation and other high-level abstract models of the system under development. The Architecture and Design Analysis module provides the system architect and human operator with the ability to develop and optimize an architecture and design which supports the conceptual view while providing an optimal solution based on the Prioritization & Tradeoff Analysis models described earlier. Design & Test Reuse and Synthesis provides the means, by leveraging existing assets and utilizing computational capabilities, to rapidly translate high level abstractions into lower level ones. These capabilities can be used across the entire range of design and test abstractions from concept to implementation. Active System Characterization has the role of providing feedback between the virtual and physical system domains. This module constantly monitors the actively deployed system and feeds back this information into the model and data repository ensuring that that this information is up to date in near real time. Human-System Integration, true to its name, is integrated throughout the system lifecycle activities to ensure that the human considerations are accounted for and modeled with the end goal of optimizing the entire system, not just the technical and human subsystems and components. Agile Process Engineering provides the processes and governance to enable productive parallel development in each of the aforementioned areas. Finally, the Modeling Environment Infrastructure provides the plumbing that supports the other tools. Each research area satisfies the following criteria:
- Critical to the transformation of SE
- Furthers the sponsor’s mission
- Requires multidisciplinary research which is not currently being done
- Appropriate scope & scale for an academic research program
- Supports a 3-year or longer roadmap of research
- Expected to have measureable impact
Each research area has capabilities that leverage the current state of the art in computation, visualization, communication and information technologies. Future advances in these areas will increase the capabilities of the technologies developed in these research areas, thus keeping Systems Engineering “on the curve”.
The road map presented in this study provides a modular, integrated and extensible framework for transforming system engineering. These research efforts are integrated, such that together they provide value that is greater than the sum of their parts, yet remain modular such that each area can proceed and provide value independently. These characteristics allow the funding of the SET roadmap to be extremely flexible with respect to amount, time and source for each research area or combination of areas. Taken separately, these research areas have the potential to significantly advance the state of the art of Systems Engineering. Taken together, they have the potential to transform Systems Engineering.