A Systems Approach to Design

A course presented over two days

Presented by Mr. Robert Halligan or Mr. Alwyn Smit



This two-day course addresses the principles and methods of designing things, regardless of what is being designed. The course provides an integrated approach to the set of technical design process disciplines. These combine with technology knowledge to contribute to the satisfaction of requirements and optimization of system effectiveness, enhancing project success and reducing risk to the enterprise.

Who Should Attend This Course?

This design course is ideal for personnel who perform or manage the development of small to large technology-based systems, products, capabilities, etc. The workshop will be of particular value to people with job titles such as:

  • System architect
  • Enterprise architect
  • Design engineer
  • Systems engineer
  • Business analyst
  • Systems analyst
  • Software systems engineer
  • Software engineer
  • Hardware engineer
  • Research engineer
  • Project engineer
  • LSA specialist
  • Industrial engineer
  • Other engineering job titles
  • R and D manager
  • Engineering manager.

Training Method and Materials

The course makes extensive use of workshops to put into practice the techniques covered in theory sessions.

The course is delivered using a mixture of formal presentation, informal discussion, and extensive workshops which exercise key aspects of a systems approach to design, using a single system throughout. The result is a high degree of learning, as evidenced by workshop work products, and the extensive commendations received from participants.

Delegates are provided with:

  • comprehensive course materials containing presentation notes and supporting reading material
  • a Workbook containing workshop exercises, with worked examples also distributed
  • numerous supplementary descriptions, checklists, forms and charts which you can put to use immediately
  • a two-CD ROM Systems Engineering resource containing about 1GB of valuable information (handbooks, templates, guides, papers, reports, standards, etc.)
  • complimentary access to PPI's evolving Systems Engineering Goldmine, from which the CD-ROM is drawn.

Course Availability

This course is available worldwide for public as well as for on-site delivery (i.e. at client-provided facilities).

Learning Objectives

It is expected that, on completion of the course, participants will:

  • understand the overall concepts which are characteristic of a systems approach to design
  • understand the overall process elements, and their relationships, which collectively constitute the process building blocks of design (verb)
  • be able to perform techniques of development of physical solution, supporting development of logical solution, evaluation of solution alternatives (trade-off studies) and design iteration, within the constraints of their technology knowledge
  • have some basic capability to tailor the application of design principles and methods to different application scenarios; and
  • be capable of extensive further learning in the field, within a sound conceptual framework.

Some Key Questions

  • What is architecture?
  • Is architecture different to design?
  • What is a systems approach to design and how is it relevant?
  • What is the relevance of waterfall development, incremental development, evolutionary development, agile, spiral development, lean, simultaneous/concurrent engineering?
  • What is the timing relationship between logical and physical design?
  • What is logical design, and what forms can it take?
  • Why do we care about logical design?
  • What is model-based architecting? Model-based design? Are model-based and model-driven different?
  • What is object-oriented design and how does it relate?
  • What languages and tools are applicable for model-based work?
  • Where does FMEA figure?
  • Is FMECA different to FMEA?
  • What about FTA and ETA, where do they figure?
  • Are model-based techniques limited to certain technologies?
  • How can we be sure we have come up with the best design?
  • Everywhere I turn there seems to be uncertainty. How can I make design decisions in the presence of such uncertainty?
  • Is there a reliable and efficient way to optimize design?
  • What are the skills, knowledge and attitudes (SKAs) conducive to success in being a designer?

Course Outline

0. Introduction - System Design Within Systems Engineering

1. Design-Related Principles of Engineering

  • workshop - design-related principles

2. Styles of System Development

  • the solution domain: key concepts, relationships, and work products
  • waterfall, incremental, evolutionary and spiral development approaches
  • workshop - development strategies

3. Concepts of Architecture and Detailed Design - Physical and Logical

  • physical architecture (structural view) - basic concepts
  • logical architecture - basic concepts
  • logical architecture related to physical architecture
  • useful forms of logical representation - functional, state-based, mathematical, ...
  • model-based design in practice - MBSE/MBA/MBD/MDA/MDD

4. Initial Physical Conceptualization

  • the role of technology and innovation
  • techniques for stimulating innovation: brainstorming, Triz
  • perspiration engineering: configuration items
  • criteria for selecting configuration items
  • relationship of CI definition to system integration
  • workshop - physical conceptualization

5. Functional Design

  • functional analysis in design - how to do it
    • functional analysis/architecture process
    • item flow and control flow
    • coupling, cohesion, connectivity
    • unallocatable and allocatable functions
    • pitfalls in defining functions
    • workshop - a simple functional design
    • workshop - physical and functional design
    • FMEA/FMECA in design
    • performance thread analysis
    • relationship to object orientation
    • allocation of functionality between hardware and software
  • Fault Tree Analysis
  • Event Tree Analysis
  • SysML, and alternate languages incorporating behavior modelling
  • other functional modeling languages
  • software tools supporting functional and physical design
  • pitfalls in functional design

6. Return to Physical Design

  • use of design driver requirements
  • facilities, procedures, people, and other types of system element
  • use of a specification tree
  • system elements not designated as configuration items
  • some common pitfalls in developing system physical architecture
  • adding the detail to the design
  • design creates requirements - the duality of requirements and design
  • interface engineering
  • the OSI 7-Layer Model in interface engineering
  • relationship to system integration
  • evolution of interfaces in systems having levels of structure
  • interface requirements specifications versus interface design descriptions/ICDs
  • some common pitfalls in interface engineering
  • artefacts created in design

7. Design Decision Making and Optimization - Trade Studies

  • designing for feasibility
  • designing for effectiveness: approach to design optimization
    • the role of MOEs and goals
    • constructing a system effectiveness model
      • capturing MOEs
      • developing weights
      • developing value functions
      • workshop - building a system effectiveness model
      • multiple stakeholders
      • multiple uses
      • some things to NEVER do
    • using a system effectiveness model
      • taking account of risk relating to goals
      • taking account of risk relating to satisfaction of requirements
      • event-based uncertainty
      • risk-aversion
      • workshop - using a system effectiveness model
      • cost/capability, return on investment and like concepts
      • iterative optimisation of design - an amazingly effective methodology
    • other techniques - Quality Function Deployment
    • designing for the company versus designing for the customer - handling conflict of interest
    • software tools supporting design decision making
    • some common pitfalls in design decision making

8. Summary and Key Points

  • action plan

9. References and Recommended Reading

About the Presenters

Mr. Robert Halligan, FIE Aust CPEng

Robert Halligan is known internationally for his role in the practice and improvement of engineering projects. After early engineering, engineering management and project management roles within major public and private sector organizations, Robert has, for the last twenty-two years, contributed to major systems projects worldwide as a consultant and trainer. Robert has worked in this capacity extensively in Europe, the United States, Asia, South America, South Africa and Australia for some of the best known and most successful global technology-based companies and government enterprises. He has also worked extensively with start-up companies and SME's.

Robert led the development and delivery of the Masters module "Managing Engineering Projects" for the Australian Graduate School of Engineering Innovation, a joint venture between two Australian Universities. Robert is a Past President of the Systems Engineering Society of Australia. He was an Australian delegate to the ISO WG7 developing the international system life cycle processes standard, ISO/IEC 12258, and for three years led the delegation of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 on software and systems engineering. Robert was a key reviewer of EIA 632 (Engineering of Systems) and EIA 731 (Systems Engineering Capability Model). He was a contributor of content to EIA/IS 632 and its successor in the area of requirements quality, and to IEEE 1220 in the area of functional analysis. Robert has served as Director (International) of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). He is an INCOSE Ambassador, and an Honorary Member of the Korean Council on Systems Engineering.

View Full Robert Halligan Biography.

Mr. Alwyn Smit Pr Eng, CSEP

Mr Alwyn Smit is a Principal Consultant with Project Performance International (PPI). Alwyn has a B.Eng. (Electr) degree from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and is registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) as a professional engineer. He spent the bulk of his career working in the South African defence industry as systems engineer and project manager on technology-intensive projects, most recently as principal systems engineer with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

As a lead systems engineer, Mr Smit has contributed extensively to the development of complex technology demonstrators as well as the low volume production of weapon systems in the areas of anti-aircraft systems, radar systems, electronic warfare systems and specialised equipment for special forces application.

View Full Alwyn Smit Biography.

For further information on how to register, or to download a copy of the registration form, please click here.

A Systems Approach to Design Schedule

How to Register

There are three simple ways to register to one of our courses.

  1. Online. You may register online by clicking the "register online" link next to the course of interest.
  2. Fax. Download a registration form by clicking the link above the schedule and fax the completed form to our offices on +61 3 9876 2664 (Australia) or +1 888 772 5191 (North America).
  3. Email. Download a registration form by clicking the link next to the course of interest and email the form here.

Upon receiving a completed registration form, a course confirmation letter and invoice will be sent electronically to the email provided within 1-2 business days. Payment can made by credit card or by bank transfer.

If you need any assistance with the registration process or have any queries, please call one of our friendly team members on Australia +61 3 9876 7345, UK +44 20 3286 1995, North America +1 888 772 5174, Brazil +55 11 3230 8256 or email us.

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View full on-site course list


"I appreciated Mr Halliganís ability to properly answer the questions with well thought-out answers, rather than quoting from standards and repeating what the text books say"

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Quote of the Day

Experience alone does not produce good specification writers. - Robert Halligan

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