What’s in Your Toolbox? Practical MBSE Part 2


What’s in Your Toolbox? Practical MBSE Part 2

I can’t even wash a horse without approaching it as an engineer. My silver anniversary as a systems engineer is in the rearview mirror, and I have a box full of systems engineering tools just waiting for an excuse to be used. This isn’t necessarily bad, as long as the tool I select is effective (e.g., don’t use a power drill to hammer a nail). When engineers put on blinders to what is really needed to solve a problem, we end up as an inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder. Let’s put the right things in our systems engineering toolbox.

Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) may be the hot new buzzword, but is it right for your program? Remember that MBSE is simply adopting systems engineering concepts enhanced with digital tools. You can’t effectively use the tools without understanding the systems engineering concepts, and adopting the concepts without the tools results in suboptimal performance and efficiency.

Putting the right things in your toolbox isn’t a once and you’re done exercise. You’ll have lots of opportunities to tweak the mix, but I’ve found there are some MBSE steps that are common to all programs.

Top 10 Tips for Aligning Your Tools to Your Engineering Challenges

  1. Complexity — If you are even considering MBSE, duct tape and ad hoc patches aren’t going to fix your problems.
  2. Read the Directions — If a governance authority is driving us to adopt MBSE practices, it can help resolve the complexity. You don’t have to view this governance as a “necessary evil.” It can be a business enabler that can improve the quality of our program and enhance our delivery process.
  3. Read the Warning Labels — Like that power saw, there are warning signs if you take the time to read them. Recognize where our systems engineering efforts can be improved and where our efforts are working well. Communicate to yourself and stakeholders where we need to improve.
  4. Plan on Needing More — Every project includes at least one drive to the store for more material or maybe a call to a bonded professional—identify what tools, templates and techniques we need from an outside source to help us on this journey.
  5. One Size Doesn't Fit All — Get input from internal and external stakeholders to review the common tools and templates and identify necessary changes to make them useful to OUR program.
  6. Don't Cut Corners — Record all areas where we need to improve; don’t leave messes for the next guy.
  7. Plan Accordingly — No, you aren’t going to build that new deck in one weekend! Develop a stepwise plan to implement tools and techniques, modified for your program’s needs, to incrementally add value over time (no Big Bang approaches).
  8. Measure Twice; Cut Once — Continually monitor our progress along the plan and take prompt corrective actions (if it doesn’t add value, stop doing it).
  9. Design Review — Review the plan and our progress with the external governance agents to understand where the enterprise is heading and how it affects our program.
  10. Improve Quality — Carry the message of improved program quality through systems engineering best practices and MBSE tools.
The best approach to adopting MBSE in a way that adds value to your program is to establish a systems engineering maturity roadmap for your program. Where are you today? Where do you want to be in a year? In two? Five? Consider your use of systems engineering practices and what tools you use to manage and analyze data. This will allow you to develop a stepwise roadmap to adoption of MBSE. This gives your program strategic direction, but it also identifies interim milestones along the way to check your progress and occasionally check to make sure you are still on a path that adds value.

What's In Your Tool Box? Engility has invested in a series of tools and templates to help you along your journey (not just hammers). We take the guesswork out of the approach and demonstrate how each step in the journey is designed to add value. We modify our templates to your program’s specific needs. When we take the journey together, we succeed as a team. As each step delivers value, we look for opportunities to introduce additional tools and templates to increase the value over time. This approach helps us ensure that each increment delivers value and we don’t get overwhelmed trying to address every challenge at once.

Engility partners with you on a collaborative journey to success. We built the tools and templates to help along the journey if you need them, but we don’t force the issue either. Grab the tools you need for your project and leave the rest in the garage for another day. We’ll even help you carry the toolbox.

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Posted by John Sahlin

I am a Ph.D., CISSP, and the Technical Director for Engility’s Defense and Security Group (DSG). I am responsible for driving technical solutions and strategy for DSG clients. I have more than 25 years of experience developing systems engineering and cybersecurity solutions for both commercial and public sector clients. To find out more about how Engility is applying tools and techniques to make MBSE real for our clients’ missions, feel free to contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).