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System Engineering

Systems Engineering is an interdisciplinary process that ensures that the customer’s needs are satisfied throughout a system’s entire life cycle. This process is comprised of the following seven tasks.

1. State the problem. Stating the problem is the most important systems engineering task. It entails identifying customers, understanding customer needs, establishing the need for change, discovering requirements and defining system functions.
2. Investigate alternatives. Alternatives are investigated and evaluated based on performance, cost and risk.
3. Model the system. Running models clarifies requirements, reveals bottlenecks and fragmented activities, reduces cost and exposes duplication of efforts.
4. Integrate. Integration means designing interfaces and bringing system elements together so they work as a whole. This requires extensive communication and coordination.
5. Launch the system. Launching the system means running the system and producing outputs — making the system do what it was intended to do.
6. Assess performance. Performance is assessed using evaluation criteria, technical performance measures and measures — measurement is the key. If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it. If you cannot control it, you cannot improve it.
7. Re-evaluation. Re-evaluation should be a continual and iterative process with many parallel loops.

The purpose of systems engineering is to produce systems that satisfy the customers’ needs, increase the probability of system success, reduce risk and reduce total-life-cycle cost.
Systems engineering, which stands at the interface between engineering and management, is conspicuously practical and down to earth. In contrast, systems theories, which lie at the core of engineering science, are mathematical and rather abstract. This in no way implies that systems theories are impractical; they are practical in a general way. Connecting them to systems engineering is the notion of function, through which systems theories are applied to particular designs.

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