What Makes a Good Systems Engineering Tool?

Published by on February 26, 2015 at 11:00 am.

A good systems engineering tool helps you synthesize a solution and reduce the work load, therefore allowing engineers to spend time on what’s important. Without a software tool, engineers have to manually write down their requirements and models on paper or through a word processing tool, such as Microsoft Word. Not using a software tool for systems engineering generates a lot time, cost, and risk for a businesses or organizations. When searching for a systems engineering tool you want to set a goal to save time, cost, and risk.

You should look for these 8 main features, when choosing a systems engineering tool. Make these features a priority. They will save you the most time and money in the long term.

  1. Common set of Systems Engineering functions

    Before anything else you need a tool that is capable of performing a set of common systems engineering functions. Some engineers take the multiple tools approach by using one tool for requirements and another for modeling. Remember the goal of a good tool is to reduce your time and cost. Searching for and purchasing more than one tool will bleed your resources dry. If you can, search for a tool that can do all the functions you need.

    The most common ones are Requirements Management, Functional Modeling, and Physical Modeling. A systems engineering tool should integrate these three functions together.  They should be able to automatically share data. The data from the requirements should go directly into creating functional models. You should be able to automatically create an IDEF0 model from a behavior diagram (LML Action Diagram or SysML Activity Diagram). Having this level of integration between the functions and eliminating multiple tools will dramatically reduce the project time for your engineering team.

  2. Large Scalability

    As technology and information grows, so do our systems. A good systems engineering tool needs the ability to scale with large project datasets. Otherwise, the system will crash and all that time and effort will go to waste. Along with large scalability for projects, the tools needs enterprise search capability.

    When talking to the sales or support teams of the tools, make sure they inform you how well their tool scales and if it will be able to handle projects of your size. Cloud computing helps the application meet the demands of the system.

  3. Highly Collaborative Environment

    Collaboration enables us to communicate. You should have the ability to communicate within a project with team members through commenting or chatting.

    In a modern world, where team members might not be in the same office or even country, collaboration is necessary for a successful project. You want the ability to share the database throughout your team and to your customers. Stakeholders should be able to contribute at different levels. For instance, someone only reviewing the project should only be allowed to write comments, but not change anything. Another key collaboration feature that is necessary is “cross-view collaboration.” Cross-view collaboration allows for one team member to know when another team member is looking at the same project, diagram, requirement, etc. This prevents issues that could occur while working on one database.

  4. Basic Analytical Tools

    A good systems engineering tool will provide a basic set of analytical tools that will help you eliminate errors and risk in your project. The analytical tools should answer these questions:

    • How good is the requirement?
    • How well are you modeling?
    • How will this model perform in the real world?

    You need the ability to set parameters that can automatically measure the performance of the requirements and models. The third question can be answered through simulators, such as Discrete Event and Monte Carlo simulator that can measure model variability, time cost, etc. Simulators can test your system in a safe environment without any risk.

  5. Basic Set of Reports

    Exporting data from the database is just as important as importing. Customers do not generally see information in the tool. What they see is the reports the tool generates. It’s important to find a tool that can automatically generate visual reports that will impress your clients.

  6. Customizable Built-in Schema

    Many tools are just basic databases and do not provide a built-in schema. You have to build it yourself. Lots of people want to build their schema themselves. They have a unique process and they want to define the schema themselves. However, this takes a lot of time and energy. Remember back to the goal of a good systems engineering tool. It is to reduce time and cost. You want to find a balance between create from scratch and ready-made. Innoslate provides a customizable built-in schema.

  7. Full Traceability and Baselining

    Full traceability and baselining are a necessity. Most tools provide at least some traceability. You need to be able to understand how the requirements relate to each other and see the high-level of decomposition.

  8. Standards Compliance

    A modern systems engineering tool should conform to modern standards. Using a standard ensures understanding in and outside your organization.

    Look for SysML, LML, IDEF and/or DoDAF compliance.

List of Systems Engineering Tools