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What is Systems Engineering?


I am often asked, “what is systems engineering?”. My detailed reply if called for is along the lines:

Systems engineering is a set of principles and supporting methods, based on systems thinking, for the successful engineering of solutions to problems. The approach is based on related process elements that are selected and integrated for use in response to a given set of circumstances to maximize the value delivered to applicable stakeholders, having regard to uncertainty.

Mastery of systems engineering spans requirements analysis (requirements capture and validation), physical (structural) design, logical design (the logic of how the system is to work), effectiveness evaluation and decision making (the conduct of trade studies), specification of system elements, system integration (building the system in development), verification of work products (job right?), validation of work products (right job?), integration into the engineering of specialty engineering disciplines, and systems engineering management (management of the engineering where a systems approach is being used).

Together these process elements, applied recursively and with degrees of iteration dependent on novelty, complexity and stability of need, embrace the totality of systems engineering practice, when applied to social, socio-technical and technical systems, including systems for development, production, maintenance, retirement, disposal, and other system life cycle processes, as applicable.

Do you view SE the same or differently?


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Systems engineering thought leader, consultant, trainer and coach, impacting people's lives on six continents.
Published 1 year ago



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Robert Halligan
One of the principles of SE is (or should be) 'only do work that adds value, on the balance of probabilities'. I too have seen SE applied as a mindless rulebook, doing everything all the time. That is why I rarely use the term "the SE process" - there is no single process. We engineer our engineering system, employing sound principles in doing so, to maximise value delivery in a set of circumstances. We decide which tools to use, to what degree, in what way, on which subjects of engineering within the overall scope of the problem we are addressing.
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