PPI SyEN 61 A3



Integrating Program Management and Systems Engineering


Dr. Ralph R. Young, Editor, SyEN

This month we provide a summary of Chapter 6, How Integration Works in Programs, in Integrating Program Management and Systems Engineering (IPMSE), a collaboration of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), the Project Management Institute (PMI), and the Consortium for Engineering Program Excellence (CEPE) at the Massachusetts (USA) Institute of Technology (MIT).

Chapter 6 is the first of six chapters in Part II, Building Capabilities to Effectively Execute Programs. The task in this chapter is to provide a framework, called the “Integration Framework”, which defines the key factors that enable effective utilization of program management and systems engineering disciplines to drive higher performance, stronger team engagement, and customer satisfaction.

The framework highlights how various factors work in concert to produce outcomes in complex behavioral networks. Since integration is amulti-faceted concept, this framework explains the core dimensions and observed practices, organizational approaches, and skillsets in use by successful programs with high levels of integration. The framework emerged from the multiyear research activities described in the book’s introduction.

The integration of program management and systems engineering is defined as a reflection of the organization’s ability to combine program management and systems engineering practices, tools and techniques, experience, and knowledge in a collaborative and systematic approach in the face of challenges, in order to be more effective in achieving common goals and objectives in complex program environments.

The Integration Framework encompasses six main dimensions, shown in Figure 6-1 in “The Book”.


The center of the framework, figuratively and literally, is ‘effective integration’. On the right side is the program performance dimension. Multiple findings from the research indicated that greater integration leads to improved program performance. (The evidence for this finding is discussed in detail in Chapter 12 of the book.)

On the left side of the framework are four dimensions that when combined contribute to greater integration between the program management and systems engineering disciplines. These dimensions are processes, practices, and tools; organizational environment; people competencies; and contextual factors.

In each dimension shown in Figure 6-1 (provided in the book) there are several variables and associated elements. Subsections in the book examine each dimension in more detail, define the dimension, and highlight some of the key insights that emerged during the research on integration.

One objective of this framework is to characterize integration as an organizational and behavioral competence through the elaboration of the multiple integration factors. Evidence from the research suggests that the individual elements, such as processes, practices, and tools from program management and systems engineering areas, are just one piece of a larger puzzle of organizational capabilities.

The Effective Integration Dimension is a result of a combination of these four dimensions. It is important to understand that effective integration comprises three distinct elements, rapid and effective decision making, effective collaborative work, and effective information sharing.

Integration is not simply the combination of standards, practices, tools and techniques, and defining roles and responsibilities. Instead, it is a broad concept that encompasses multiple dimensions of the organization and the program, and it is grounded in the three elements.

Figure 6-8 in The Book is a graphic of the complete Integration Framework, including all dimensions and key elements. As noted above, in each of the dimensions shown in Figure 6-1, there are several variables and associated elements. There is a discussion of each dimension that describes how the specific variables and associated elements were evolved as well as the related research that was applied.


Interestingly, none of the professionals interviewed during the research indicated that their organizations had clearly defined objectives related to integration itself! Organizations measure success based on schedule, budget, and scope.

Research shows that one of the key challenges in the program management domain is benefits realization. Unlike projects that have defined deliverables whose value is generally linked to customer satisfaction, scope, budget, and time, programs are designed to deliver a broad array of business benefits. Those benefits can range from new capabilities to financial return to opening new markets. But those benefits are often delivered throughout the life of the program which can last for many years. It is impossible also to define specific goals relating to the development of integration (i.e., its associated capabilities, and how it is to be measured) and then putting the right processes and measures in place to capture those benefits.

The analysis of the Phase IV research found a positive correlation between greater levels of integration and better program performance. Of two groups, one with greater levels of integration and another with lesser levels of integration, the group with greater levels of integration also had higher levels of program performance.

The value of these insights to you might best be determined by giving thoughtful attention to the following questions:

  1. Why is adopting a standard (or multiple standards) for practices, tools, and techniques valuable for improving integration?
  2. Why is it important to define clear goals and objectives for integration?
  3. Using the framework to evaluate your own organization, in which dimensions is your organization strongest and weakest?
  4. What are the gaps within your organization highlighted by the Integration Framework that you believe, if closed, would help to improve the level of integration between systems engineering and program management?
  5. Who are the key stakeholders inside your organization who can provide additional insight to support evaluation of the organizational and behavioral competencies that support integration?

The tables are reproduced from Integrating Program Management and Systems Engineering: Methods, Tools, and Organizational Systems for Improving Performance, Eric Rebentisch, Editor-in-Chief, Published by John Wiley Sons, Inc. Copyright 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.



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