Systems Engineering

From TomGilb's PlanguageConceptGlossary

Systems Engineering Concept *223 July 17, 2003

Systems Engineering (SE) is an engineering process, encompassing and managing all relevant system stakeholders requirements; as well as all design solutions; and necessary technology, economic, and political areas.

The fundamental purposes of systems engineering are to: An INCOSE Definition

"Systems Engineering integrates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation. Systems Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of all customers with the goal of providing a quality product that meets the user needs."( whatis.html)

Blanchard's Department of Defence (DoD) Definition

Systems Engineering is the "process that shall:

1. Transform operational needs and requirements into an integrated system design solution through concurrent consideration of all life-cycle needs (i.e., development, manufacturing, test and evaluation, verification, deployment, operations, support, training and disposal);

2. Ensure the compatibility, interoperability, and integration of all functional and physical interfaces and ensure that system definition and design reflect the requirements for all system elements (i.e., hardware, software, facilities, people, data); and

3. Characterize and manage technical risks." [BLANCHARD98]

An FAA (the USA Federal Aviation Authority) Definition

Systems Engineering is:

"A hybrid methodology that combines policy, analysis, design, and management. It ensures that a complex man-made system or product, selected from the range of options available, is the one most likely to satisfy the customer's objectives in the context of long-term future operation or market environments. Systems engineering is applied throughout the system or product life cycle as a comprehensive, possibly iterative, interleaved, or recursive, technical process to:

a. Translate an operational need into a configured system or product meeting the operational need

b. Integrate the technical contributions of all available development resources, including all technical disciplines into a coordinated effort that meets established program cost, schedule and performance objectives. This involves a "holistic view" (the design of the whole as distinguished from the design of the parts). Such a view is multi-disciplinary in nature, rather than disciplinary or interdisciplinary;

c. Ensure the compatibility of all function and physical interfaces (internal and external)

d. Ensure that system or product definition and design reflect the requirements in system or product elements (outcome, hardware, software, facilities, people, and data).

e. Characterize [identify, define, and classify] technical risks, develop risk abatement approaches, and reduce technical risks by prevention and mitigation of impacts when risks are realized."

Source: FAA-iCMM Appraisal Method Version 1.0 A-19, INCOSE Conference CD, June 1999, Brighton UK [FAA98].


1. The Systems Engineering process is a conscious attempt to avoid sub-optimal engineering. Without Systems Engineering, the success of the resulting system is more accidental than predictable. Systems engineering is necessary because there are so many possible places for product development to go wrong. For example, sub-optimal results might be caused by setting requirements for too narrow a list of stakeholders, or by using too narrow a set of design ideas to solve the problem of satisfying all project requirements. Another frequent problem, especially in well-established large companies, is for groups to produce optimal components yet produce a very sub-optimal complete system.

2. Systems engineering includes a broad application of disciplines such as requirements engineering, quality control, project management, test engineering, and any of the many other disciplines that might be found useful for satisfying stakeholders. Architecture Engineering, a subset of systems engineering, is by contrast, directed only towards the design aspects.

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