Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Anders Wallgren, SmartBear Blog, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud: Article

The Six Principles of Systems Engineering

IBM's Rational Rules Developed Over 10-Year Period

IBM Rational's six principles of systems engineering are a set of high-level systems development guidelines derived from the careful analysis of successful, complex systems development engagements over the past ten years.

Although they are neither comprehensive nor mutually exclusive, they serve to highlight key areas of focus for organizations interested in quickly building expertise in complex systems development. They also serve as a "measuring stick" for assessing potential problem areas and the root causes underlying symptomatic project deficiencies or failures. It is well-known and accepted that function, schedule, and cost are three key and mutually dependent aspects of project management -- make a change to one, and the effects often ripple through the other two.

A similar relationship exists in product and program management for complex systems development. As shown in Figure 1, the three key aspects are:

  1. Systems architecture
  2. Organizational structure, including the systems development infrastructure
  3. Process, including workflows, best practices, and the like
These aspects collaborate to help achieve the following:

  • "Build the right system and build the system right"

    Architecture focuses on building the right system and model-driven use-case based architectural decomposition lays the foundation for building the system right. Why is architecture singled out? Because it provides the foundation on which the system is ultimately constructed. The choices made in selecting the system's architecture become a lasting legacy - either good or bad.

    Here's a transportation example: The basic architecture used for centuries in building roads or other transportation elements (like rail tracks) was basically point-to-point (the shortest distance between two points can be considered optimal since it minimizes the road length and one would assume maximizes time to travel efficiency). Simple enough, but there was always at least a physical constraint: the terrain, which forced the path to avoid obstacles. There were also other potential constraints such as "hostile" territory or political boundaries.

    In any case, roads were built and paths crossed somewhat haphazardly. Move forward to the 20th century. Population growth generated additional constraints - namely street lights or traffic signs to optimize the flow of traffic through intersections. These are somewhat problematic on roads architected in the point-to-point avoid obstacle approach, especially where more than two roads intersect. A clearly "better" architecture has proven to be laying out roads in rectangular grids. This architecture and the many implementations are much easier to control from a signaling and traffic flow perspective.

    So build the right system and build it right - making it robust (scalable, extendible, easy to maintain, easy to use, and so on).

  • "Do the right things, and do the things right"

    The systems development framework focuses on defining the right things to do throughout the product lifecycle to optimize business value and return on investment and best practices, processes/supporting tools and governance (requirements, quality, change, configuration, and program/project management) focus on ensuring things are done right.

  • "Apply the right resources, and apply the resources right"

    "Doing" and "building" are action verbs; they require resources to perform the "doing" and the "building". The most significant enterprise resource is people, followed by supporting infrastructure. Acquiring, motivating, and retaining skilled personnel applies the right resources, and aligning the organization appropriately to optimize communication, collaboration, and effort applies the resources optimally. A sound enterprise infrastructure (including IT equipment and software) is one key aspect in ensuring the resources are applied optimally, once again maximizing business value and return on investment

    The six principles of systems engineering address all three aspects described above. The three technical principles (noted below) focus on architecture and the derivation of system models, while the remaining principles provide the complementary infrastructures and workflows needed to optimize the technical development environment.

    The six systems engineering development principles are:

    1. Decompose systems, not requirements (technical).
    2. Enable both separation and integration of "key systems development" concerns (technical).
    3. Specifications flow up and down the architecture (technical).
    4. Systems and components collaborate; so should development teams.
    5. Development organizations should reflect product architectures.
    6. Base the "development" lifecycle on removing risk and adding value.
    Let's examine each of these principles, initially from a generic systems engineering view, and then specifically in the context of joint hardware/software development.

    Decompose systems, not requirements
    Since systems and software engineering principles and methods have been written about, discussed, and applied in countless cases, one might think that development teams have a common understanding of such terms as "system" and "systems engineering." Unfortunately, this is not the case; neither across enterprises within a specific industry nor across the product and functional domains within an engineering development community in a single enterprise.

    According to INCOSE (the International Council on Systems Engineering), systems engineering is2:
    An interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, and then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem:

    • Operations
    • Performance
    • Test
    • Manufacturing
    • Cost and Schedule
    • Training and Support
    • Disposal
    A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole, which provides a set of services that are used by an enterprise to carry out a business purpose (mission). System components consist of hardware, software, data, and workers3. Put simply, a system is a complex entity that provides some tangible result of value. Systems engineering is a disciplined approach that helps us examine desired results and determine what can satisfy them. It also helps us determine how to do this within a set of business-critical constraints (cost, schedule, testing parameters, ease of manufacturing, and so on). The "what" is the system, the "how" is the functional requirements, the "business-critical constraints" are the supplementary requirements, and the "desired results" are products of use cases.
  • More Stories By Murray Cantor

    Murray Cantor is a member of the IBM Rational CTO team, taking the lead for Governance and Systems. Cantor formerly lead the IBM Rational field services group, promoting and extending Rational best practices, and working closely with customers on innovative ways to build and deliver systems more efficiently.

    More Stories By Gene Roose

    Gene Roose is a senior systems engineering consultant for IBM Rational, concentrating on model-driven systems development methods. He assists clients with solution analysis and design, architectural derivation and validation, and overall project management.

    Comments (0)

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    @ThingsExpo Stories
    You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
    The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
    Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
    Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
    This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
    So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
    IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
    The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
    The paradigm has shifted. A Gartner survey shows that 43% of organizations are using or plan to implement the Internet of Things in 2016. However, not just a handful of companies are still using the old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways, unaware of the critical barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can you become a winner? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan will present a methodical approach to guide the holistic adoption and enablement of IoT implementations. This ov...
    We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
    Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
    Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
    In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
    You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
    Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
    Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
    Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...