Systems Analyst Engineer at the System Level Research Proposal

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¶ … Systems Engineering Roles

Evaluating Systems and Subsystems Engineering Roles:

A Comparative Analysis

The intent of this analysis is to evaluate the roles of system engineers including systems analysts relative to subsystem engineers, who are often segmented by their area of expertise. The most common areas of expertise for subsystem engineers are hardware and software. In addition in electronics manufacturers it is common to find firmware or electronic subsystems engineers as well. Comparing the role of the systems engineer to that of the subsystem engineer starts with their approach to owning a specific series of processes and functional areas of the companies they work in. Systems engineers are often responsible for the entire life cycle planning of a given project, whether it is software or hardware based, or both. A systems engineer will also be more focused on lifecycle integration, baseline measurements, development phasing and systems engineering management compared to their counterparts in the subsystem area. Subsystem engineers including those in hardware, software and firmware or electronics are focused on how to optimize the specific areas of a system they are responsible for. This includes optimizing the level of compatibility a given system component has, the development of optimization routines within the subsystem to ensure high performance, and the definition of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to evaluate results (Carrington, Strooper, Newby, Stevenson, 2005). This analysis will conclude with an assessment of how these two different areas of engineering expertise are combined to optimize a systems' performance and ensure long-term scalability and viability of the systems designed. Often systems engineering and subsystems engineering teams will coordinate on the definition of key performance indicators (KPIs) and measures of performance that the system will be evaluated on over time. This is commonly seen in the benchmarks from a systems standpoint that companies rely on to ensure the systems designed stay vigilant and focused on the original design goals and purposes.

The Multi-Faceted Role of Systems Engineering

In completing a comparative analysis of the roles of systems engineering and subsystems engineering disciplines, one of the most differentiated aspects of each of their respective roles is the breadth, content and types of processes each concentrate on in bringing new products to market and sustaining existing ones (Dasher, 2003). For the system engineer or system analyst the focus must be all-encompassing and systemic from the standpoint of managing lifecycle planning, lifecycle integration, baseline measures of performance including KPIs and metrics of performance, development phasing and project management and systems engineering management (Hoberman, 2009). All of these aspects of a systems engineering role must also be cognizant of and plan for integration to outside sources of intelligence and insight as well (Carrington, Strooper, Newby, Stevenson, 2005). As a result a systems engineer or systems analyst must be excellent at managing the integration of not only of hardware and software systems but of processes and enterprise-wide systems as well. Increasingly system engineers must play the role of organization architect and seek to create process-based integration to ensure their projects and the underlying systems to support them are effective (Ishikawa, Hiroshi, Rumi, 1991). As the pace of change itself accelerates system engineers often are called upon to make the organizations they work for keep up. This is what makes the role of the system engineer critically important, because in many high tech organizations they are in fact the catalysts that bring needed change into companies.

Systems engineering also has the responsibility of continually optimizing the performance of systems throughout an organization, often using Six Sigma and quality management methodologies to ensure the highest levels of performance are being attained (Ishikawa, Hiroshi, Rumi, 1991). The use of quality management methodologies also makes it possible for systems engineers to also measure the performance gains in their systems relative to other organizations they are dependent on. An example of this is the use of systems engineering for the development of supply chain management systems, supply chain optimization strategies, and the development of reverse logistics processes that require a manufacturer to be integrated with their suppliers (Omachonu, Einspruch, 2007). This type of system engineering has become increasingly critical as companies are expected to also comply with environmental standards including RoHS and WEEE, which are required today in many European nations. Systems engineering is responsible then for compliance initiatives within manufacturing companies to ensure that when a product is designed it can be immediately sold in various global markets immediately (Omachonu, Einspruch, 2007). This places more pressure on systems engineering teams and managers to stay current with the latest compliance and quality management initiatives as well.

Underscoring the multifaceted nature of systems engineering is also the need for exceptional insight and analytical ability in interpreting and acting on analytics and measures of performance over time. An excellent systems engineer will be able to read, analyze and take action on the commonly agreed set of criteria or KPIs relatively quickly. In addition excellent systems engineers also understand the extent to which they can make changes to products, process, roles and systems unilaterally vs. bilaterally (Dasher, 2003). From this standpoint often the systems engineer needs to also seek to create collaboration with the subsystem engineers and a common series of expectations of how decisions will be made (Carrington, Strooper, Newby, Stevenson, 2005). Collaboration between systems engineers and their subsystem counterparts needs to be such that each understands when they can make a decision unilaterally or not. This is critically important for the development of trust within teams as well (Dasher, 2003). The collaborative aspects of system engineering, hardware, software and firmware engineering all revolve around the need for managing to a common set of criteria as well (Ishikawa, Hiroshi, Rumi, 1991). That is why it is so critical to create a common baseline to measure performance from.

The role of the system engineer is to oversee an entire ecosystem that includes the aggregation and validation of process inputs from a wide variety of sources and then complete a requirements analysis. Systems engineering often completes an analysis of how the strategic goals of the organization can be fulfilled with functional requirements of re-engineered processes, products, and systems. Requirements Analysis also concentrates on how to apply constraints to the functional requirements of new products and the reengineering of existing ones. This is a critical area of system engineering as the decisions made here will have a direct impact on the functional analysis and allocation of resources and systems, the development of a synthesis model for the attainment of the requirements as defined. Systems engineering also works to keep all of these factors in balance with one another through the use of systems analysis and control. Typically systems analysts who are managing these areas will concentrate on how to use Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR) techniques to ensure that each of the necessary process areas is optimized for the best possible performance (Carrington, Strooper, Newby, Stevenson, 2005).

Best Practices in Subsystems Engineering

Where the systems engineer and subsystems engineering roles differ is first in their areas of academic discipline and second in their specific approaches to managing their segments of a broader profess, system or product-based initiative. In the computer industry hardware engineers have often majored in Electrical Engineering (EE), Mechanical Engineering (ME), or Integrated Circuit design and concepts. For the software engineers the undergraduate and graduate degrees of those working in this field include Computer Science (CS), Information Systems or Technology (it/IS) and Programming-specific majors as well (Carrington, Strooper, Newby, Stevenson, 2005). Firmware engineers or those subsystems engineers who concentrate on the electronics and circuitry of a system are often experts in software engineering in addition to electrical engineering as well. Subsystem engineering best practices is common across all of these disciplines however, as they are each specifically focused on how to make their specific area of expertise and design within a system, project, product or program as optimized as possible (Omachonu, Einspruch, 2007). Best practices in subsystems engineering has similarities to systems engineering, in that each area must concentrate on how to integrate their processes, systems, and products together. They vary however in their approach to managing the internal development process and the approaches used to optimize componentry or software code.

Subsystems engineering professionals concentrate more on the individual lifecycle of their given component or product, not so much on the broader, systemic integration of a product or process across an entire company. While subsystems engineering, both hardware and software, concentrate on integration the focus is how to manage the input and output from the components, subassemblies or code segments they have expertise in, not the overarching systemic integration of all components together. Second, subsystems engineering is more focused on state-of-the-art technologies in their specific areas including the opportunity to contribute to their professional communities through thought leadership (Hoberman, 2009). As a result subsystems engineering professionals are loyal first to their professions, second to the organizations they work for. As a result the level of knowledge transfer within each of the engineering disciplines' represented in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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