Technical Report: Development of 3-Year Roadmap to Transform the Discipline of Systems Engineering

Report Number: Technical Report SERC-2010-TR-006-1

Report Name: Development of 3-Year Roadmap to Transform the Discipline of Systems Engineering

Publication Date: March 31,2010

Executive Summary
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.