About Systems Engineering

What is Systems Engineering?

The International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE) defines Systems Engineering as "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:

  1. Operations
  2. Cost and Schedule
  3. Performance
  4. Training and Support
  5. Test
  6. Manufacturing
  7. Disposal
Systems Engineering integrates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation. Systems Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of all customers with the goal of providing a quality product that meets the user needs."

In essence, Systems Engineering provides a structured methodology of identifying a problem, breaking the solution ("the system") down into components, and ensuring that these components work together correctly. Systems Engineering allows two questions to be answered about the solution to a problem:

  1. Was the correct system built?
  2. Was the system built correctly?

What are the benefits of using Systems Engineering in ITS Projects?

According to the Systems Engineering Guidebook for ITS, "The primary benefit of doing systems engineering is that it will reduce the risk of schedule and cost overruns and will provide a system of higher integrity. Other benefits include:

  1. Better system documentation
  2. Higher level of stakeholder participation
  3. System functionality that meets stakeholder expectations
  4. Potential for shorter project cycles
  5. Systems that can evolve with a minimum redesign and cost
  6. Higher level of system reuse
  7. More predictable outcomes from projects"

When must I use Systems Engineering?

In the United States, the FHWA Final Rule on ITS Architecture and Standards Conformity (23 CFR 940), and the corresponding FTA National ITS Architecture Consistency Policy, require that a Systems Engineering Analysis be performed on any ITS project using federal funding. The level of effort put into the the Systems Engineering Process should be commensurate with the scope of the project. Even in cases where systems engineering is not required, it is always a good practice to use Systems Engineering to manage the inherent risk involved with any project.

What does a Systems Engineering analysis consist of?

According to 23 CFR 940.11, a Systems Engineering analysis must include (if a project is receiving federal funding in the United States):
  1. Identification of portions of the regional ITS architecture being implemented (or if a regional ITS architecture does not exist, the applicable portions of the National ITS Architecture)

  2. Identification of participating agencies roles and responsibilities

  3. Requirements definitions

  4. Analysis of alternative system configurations and technology options to meet requirements

  5. Procurement options

  6. Identification of applicable ITS standards and testing procedures

  7. Procedures and resources necessary for operations and management of the system
The ITS Architecture for the region where the project is taking place can be directly applied to complete items 1, 2, 3, and the standards part of item 6.