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Efficient Collaboration for Embedded Systems Engineering: The Data Don’t Lie, Pt. V

The High Price of Disorganized Teamwork & Insufficient Tools

Marc Oppy | June 14, 2016

Embedded Systems Modern Requirements ManagementOverheard at INCOSE RMC16:

“Systems engineering is in the midst of a transformation that is largely driven by convergence among disciplines and convergence of technologies.”
Dr. Azad M. Madni, USC Prof. of Astronautical Engineering, Director of Systems Architecting & Engineering

We agree. The simultaneous convergence of engineering disciplines and technologies creates opportunities for innovation and more entry points for risk. Systems engineers that must demonstrate regulatory compliance need tools that make it easy to identify potential risks, so that they can be evaluated and categorized, and mitigation plans created.

“Opportunities for making stupid mistakes grow as project complexity increases.”
Dr. Steven Jenkins, JPL Principal Engineer

As complexity grows, the problems it brings can’t be blamed solely on the products, versions or variants being built, but on the ways people work with the tools they inherit, which lead to unstructured communication, misalignment and lack of adoption. Systems engineers are smart people whose work and capabilities are often handicapped by “dumb” tools incapable of handling project, process and product complexity.

“Think relationally, think internet about a problem.”
James R. Horejsi, GPS Chief Engineer at Space and Missile Systems Center

Contextual thinking leads to critical thinking. But if you can’t trace the points of connection, and see and understand the relationships in between, you don’t have the context you need to make the correct choices. For systems engineers, what’s missing is context for the data, decisions, actions and people involved in each problem. No context = no solutions.

In the age of technology convergence, project complexity and relational critical thinking, context is king.

Modern teams consist of employees, contractors and government civilians working in distributed locations. Collaboration in this environment is critical, but without an organized process that allows teams to establish and maintain alignment throughout all phases of development, collaboration practices can’t provide context.

So, teams experiment. For example, when engineering teams are drawn to a methodology such as Agile, they may keep the parts that work for them, scrap the parts that don’t, and morph the management of programs, projects and tasks into a hybrid system that’s better than before and—most important—one that people can understand and will use.

That’s progress. What isn’t is doing nothing. But for too many companies building embedded systems, especially large and organizationally complex organizations, the status quo wins, and that’s why only 13 percent of them use Agile upstream and downstream.

The devil you know may be familiar, but months or years later, you realize you’ve built significant expertise around conforming your work to a deeply flawed system’s shortcomings.

And the damages add up over time, in massive inefficiencies, delayed decisions and lost, locked up and untraceable data — and that’s a risk that aerospace and defense, automotive, medical device and semiconductor engineering companies can’t afford.

See the stats leading analysts say endanger the success of embedded systems engineering projects, and find out how organized and frustration-free collaboration can be with a with a free 30-day Jama trial.