For over 25 years, David Long has focused on helping organizations increase their systems engineering proficiency while simultaneously working to advance the state of the art. David is the founder and president of Vitech, where he leads the team in delivering innovative, industry-leading methods and software (CORE™ and GENESYS™) to help organizations engineer next-generation systems. He co-authored A Primer for Model-Based Systems Engineering and frequently delivers keynotes and tutorials at industry events around the world. A committed member of the systems community and an Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP), David was the 2014-2015 president of INCOSE.
Throughout his career, Long has played a key technical and management role in refining and extending systems engineering to expand the analysis and communication toolkit available to systems practitioners. He continues to lead the Vitech team as it delivers innovative, industry-leading solutions to help organizations develop and deploy next-generation systems. Long has served INCOSE since 1997 including a term as the Washington Metropolitan Area Chapter president and international roles including member board chair, director for communications, and director for strategy. He is a frequent presenter at industry events worldwide delivering keynotes and tutorials spanning introductory systems engineering, the advanced application of MBSE, and the future of systems engineering. In 2006, Long received the prestigious INCOSE Founders Award in recognition of his many contributions to the organization.
Long holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and mechanics, as well as a master’s degree in systems engineering from Virginia Tech.
Effective SE Communication through Models and Representations
Models and representations have always been cornerstones of engineering, systems engineering included. Regrettably, rather than bringing clarity, the rise of model-based systems engineering has brought increased confusion and conflict regarding models and representations. Given the inherent breadth of systems engineering as we connect stakeholders and technical experts, we require the richest representation set possible. Rather than engaging in religious wars, we must continuously seek to expand our engineering toolkit to better understand, analyze, and communicate. And we must seek to integrate these seemingly diverse representations as perspectives of an underlying systems model rather than as distinct products and endpoints themselves.
Surveying the multitude of system representations available – SysML and traditional, logical and physical, contextual and technical, systems and beyond – we will connect a diverse set of representations to each other and, most importantly, to the common underlying model. We will highlight various representations, each with their specific content and strengths. These strengths lead to preferred usage contexts and scenarios as part of a continuum of perspectives on the systems model. Leveraging these strengths, we will describe the constructive role these representations can play in a customizable, coherent, and powerful toolkit to address the systems challenges of today.
Models as a Foundation for Systems Engineering – Should We Expect a Breakthrough?
Though models and modeling techniques have always played a key role in systems engineering, model-based has now become the hot topic in systems engineering. Organizations are investing heavily in developing new representations, standards, methodologies, and technologies to transform the practice of systems engineering through model-driven paradigms. As we look at the landscape today and the roadmap tomorrow, projects and practitioners are striving to make sense of this movement – “What does MBSE mean? What would it take to realign our practices? What return on investment will it deliver, now and in the future?” Assessing the state of systems engineering, the needs of our customers, technology and environmental trends, we will look at what model-based systems engineering is and is not. Most importantly, we will identify opportunities, enablers, obstacles, and threats that will help determine if model-based systems engineering will ultimately transform systems engineering or simply be the next failed silver bullet.
Faster, Better, Cheaper – The Fallacy of MBSE?
Scope, time, and cost – the three fundamental constraints of a project. Project management theory holds that these three dimensions are inextricably linked as competing constraints. To complete a project faster must sacrifice budget or scope (whether explicitly through reduced capability or implicitly through lower quality). Likewise, to complete a project at lower cost inevitably results in longer schedules or reduced capability/lower quality. As the standard saying goes today, “faster, better, cheaper – pick any two.”
When Daniel Goldin became Administrator of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), he championed the cause of a unified “faster, better, cheaper” mentality. Using this management mantra, Goldin sought to save money while simultaneously improving performance and accelerating schedule. In other words, he sought to deliver results seemingly impossible given the “iron triangle” of project management. After multiple mission failures including the twin Mars mission disasters in 1999, the concept of faster-better-cheaper was widely derided, and we once again returned to the model of “pick any two.”
Today, with the rise of model-based systems engineering, the concept of faster-better-cheaper has re-emerged, albeit under new monikers. The standard INCOSE MBSE briefing (MBSE Workshop, February 2010) promises quality and performance improvements with enhanced rigor and precision, improved stakeholder communication, and better management of complexity. Others tout MBSE’s ability to accelerate the systems engineering effort as well as the overall system life cycle.
As we seek to transform the practice of systems engineering to better face the complexities and constraints of today, we must ensure that we maintain our own balance. We must promise improved results in order to justify the cost – and the risk – of adopting new practices. However, we must ensure that we don’t over promise and under deliver, or the legacy of MBSE will be landmark failures rather project success. As we seek to justify the adoption of new technologies and new approaches, are we simply falling into an old trap, retracing the steps of Goldin’s previous doomed journey? Or, through a skillful blend of systems engineering and project management approaches, can we actually achieve the vision of faster-better-cheaper? If so, what frameworks must we adopt as systems practitioners and what changes must we make as project managers?
Systems Engineering in Turbulent Times
Emerging needs…rapidly changing requirements…dynamic environments…ever-increasing connectivity…evolutionary and revolutionary technologies…budget crises…shrinking schedules. The practice and profession of systems engineering emerged from the development of large, stand-alone, single purpose systems. Today we face an ever-shifting landscape and operate across a wide range of size, cost, and product lifespan. As technologies continue to advance and dynamic complexity grows, what role does systems engineering place in solving problems today and tomorrow? How do we adjust and evolve our practice to deliver greater value in turbulent times?
MBSE at the Age of Eight
In April 2006, responding to the Object Management Group’s (OMG) “UML for Systems Engineering” request for proposal, competing teams came together, merged their proposals, and delivered an integrated submission to OMG. Three months later, the OMG formally adopted the merge team’s proposal as OMG SysML™, the Systems Modeling Language. So was born what many consider to be the age of model-based systems engineering (MBSE).
Though models and modeling techniques have always played a key role in systems engineering, in the eight years since OMG’s adoption of SysML, model-based has become the hot topic in the systems domain. Organizations are investing heavily in developing new representations, standards, methodologies, and technologies to transform the practice of systems engineering through model-driven paradigms. With energy and motion come both progress and confusion. Assessing the state of systems engineering, the needs of our customers, and technology and environmental trends, we need to be clear what model-based systems engineering is and what it is not. Most importantly, as we reflect upon the state of MBSE today, we must acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses, aspects to reinforce and aspects to address as we move forward if we are to ensure that model-based systems engineering successfully transforms systems engineering as opposed to becoming next failed silver bullet.
Building for Tomorrow: Towards 21st Century Systems Engineering
Systems engineering is a practice and a profession in transition. For almost ten years, systems engineering has framed the transition as one from document-centric to model-based techniques. While an important part of our future, this aspect is only a small part of the required transformation. There are many more dimensions to the challenge as we move from the needs of the past to the problems of today.
If we as systems engineers are to move beyond 20th century systems engineering, what must we address? How must we adapt, evolve, and transform to build for tomorrow?