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According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer (2011), studying systems engineering is completely different from studying other traditional engineering. Systems engineering studies require special development of thinking capability in order to acquire ‘systems engineering viewpoint’ and to achieve key objectives of the entire system and the success of its mission. Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour and Biemer’s (2011) book attempts to develop these capabilities. As a system engineer, one faces three complex directions: the project manager’s schedule and financial needs, abilities and ambitions of the specialists developing the elements of the system, and the system users’ concerns and needs. As a result, the system’s engineers are required to learn adequate languages and basic principles of each of three directions in order to comprehend the requirements and to provide balanced solutions to all. In this regard, this paper summarizes Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour and Biemer’s (2011) work titled Systems Engineering Principles and Practice.

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Systems Engineering and The World of Modern Times

According to Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich (2000), the term system refers to a set of components that work together towards achieving a common objective. The term engineering refers to the use of scientific standards to practical ends. The definition implies a diversity of interacting parts, which collectively perform a crucial function. The function of systems engineering is to guide the engineering of complex systems. Guiding can be defined as ‘leading, managing, or directing, which is often based on the superior experience in pursuing a given course ’. According to Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer (2005), this definition stresses on the process of choosing the path for others to follow among several possible courses.

From this depiction, systems engineering differs from other engineering disciplines since it stresses its total operation. According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer (2011), systems engineering studies the system from the outside. This field of study is concerned with not only the internal engineering system design but also with the exterior factors that can substantially restrain the system design. Different from other traditional disciplines, systems engineering is concerned with customer needs and operational environment.

With regard to its origin, systems engineering principles have been practiced at a certain level since the construction of pyramids (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000). The acknowledgment of systems engineering as an activity is frequently linked to the impacts of World War II, and particularly the 1950s, when several materials published identified the discipline as a distinct one. Examples of complex systems include truck location, weather satellites, airline navigation, clinical information systems, and traffic control systems among others (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011).

Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour and Biemer’s (2011) book provides perspectives of understanding the origin of modern systems engineering. The first perspective is advancing technology, which offers opportunities for increasing system abilities. However, technology introduces others risks to the construction of systems (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). The second perspective is competition, different forms of which necessitate the need to seek superior system solution via the use of system level trade-offs among other alternative approaches. The third perspective is specialization, which necessitates the division of the system into different building blocks that correspond to the product types. These types can be structured and built by specialists (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011).

As a profession, systems engineering has an increasing role in various industries and government departments. Indeed, various degree programs are available in different universities worldwide. In addition, there is a formally recognized body of knowledge for system engineers: the INCOSE (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000). Engineering professionals dealing with technical systems have particular technical orientations, which imply that they tend to be specialized. Profession in systems engineering essentially features technical satisfaction and acknowledgment of a pivotal program role. As a result, systems engineers should have the following traits of character: good communicator; good problem solver; analytical and systematic; and technically well-grounded.

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Chapter Two: Systems Engineering Landscape

The second chapter focuses on systems engineering landscape, which includes systems engineering viewpoints, perspectives of systems engineering, systems domain, systems engineering fields, systems engineering approaches, and systems engineering activities and products.

According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer (2011), viewpoints of systems engineering are oriented towards the production of a successful system, which fulfills requirements and development objectives, is successful in its operation, and attains the desired operating life. For a system to attain these requirements, an engineer has to balance superior performance with schedule and affordability constraints (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). Many systems engineering aspects integrate the achievement of balance among the conflicting objectives. Throughout the process of development, the engineer has to focus the entire perspective on the total system (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). Frequently, this is achieved by bridging various elements and disciplines in order to provide a solution.

There are two systems engineering viewpoints/standpoints, which include specialized design and planning control. According to Dym, Agogino, Eris, Freyand Leifer (2005), specialized design is one dimensional. This is because it has technical in-depth, but little management and technical breadth expertise. Planning control is two dimensional. This is because it has substantial management expertise and moderate technical breadth and depth. Nevertheless, systems engineering is three dimensional because it has significant technical extensiveness, moderate management expertise and technical gravity (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005).

Different views exist in regard to comprehending systems engineering, from a general thinking approach to complex problems, a development approach to systems engineering, to the broad perspective on engineering systems (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). The systems thinking viewpoint tends to focus on the process. The systems engineering viewpoint focuses on the entire product. The engineering systems viewpoint seems to focus on both the product and the process. The development of systems engineering discipline is witnessed in several academic graduate programs in the area. The development of a system`s mindset, which thinks like an engineer, is of high importance at any phase of life. According to Dym, Agogino, Eris, Freyand Leifer (2005), this is because to deal with the most challenging and sophisticated problems not only education but also professional experience is required.

Regarding systems domain, a traditional approach to systems integrates a growing domain breadth (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer, 2011). The systems domain does not only comprise engineering, technical, and management domains but also human, legal/political and social domains. Scales at the extremes are of primary interest because of their sophistications (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000).

The discipline of systems engineering overlaps with several related fields, including mechanical, aerodynamic, civil engineering and electrical disciplines among others (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). It is important to note that engineers` approach to systems engineering is closely linked to the engineering discipline. Since systems engineering deals with the design of systems, senior managers and functional and project managers will consider the management elements of controlling and planning to be the primary aspects of the development (Lykins, Friedenthal& Meilich, 2000). Various approaches have also been developed to assist in systems engineering, for example, the linear, waterfall and spiral approaches.

Chapter Three: Structure of Complex Systems

This chapter of the book focuses on the structure of complex systems. The key aspects discussed in regard to the systems` structure include system building blocks, hierarchy of complex systems, system environment, interfaces and interactions, and complexity of modern systems (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). With regard to system building blocks and interfaces, the authors asserted that the need for a systems engineer to acquire knowledge of the various interacting disciplines related to the development of complex system raises the question of how deep that understanding should be (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011).

According to Lykins, Friedenthaland Meilich (2000), a system building block refers to the rudimentary attributes of all engineered systems characterized by both physical and functional characteristics. The building blocks often perform significant and distinct functions, and they are singular, which implies that they are within latitude of the engineering discipline (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). There are two classes of system building blocks: functional and components.

Functional elements refer to the equivalents of functional components (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). They can be categorized into four categories, which include signal components, data components, material components and energy elements. Signal elements communicate and sense information. The data elements are crucial in the processes of interpretation, organization, and manipulation of information (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). Material elements offer process and structure materials. Lastly, energy elements offer power and energy. On the other hand, components refer to a physical incarnation of functional elements (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000). Components are classified into six groups in accordance with construction materials, which include electro-optical, mechanical, software, thermo-mechanical, electronic, and electromechanical ones (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005).

The building blocks of the system can be helpful in the identification of actions able to attain the operational outcomes (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). This enables the functional definition and partitioning, identification of subsystems and component interfaces, and the visualization of the physical architecture of the system.

Complex systems comprise multiple subsystems, subcomponents, components and parts. As a result, according to Dym, Agogino, Eris, Freyand Leifer (2005), complex systems might be represented by a hierarchical structure. The area of domain of the system engineer stretches down through the component level, covering several categories. On the contrary, the domain of the design specialist stretches from the part level up via the component level, but essentially within a single discipline and area (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000).

Lykins, Friedenthal and Meilich (2000) define system environment as everything outside the system interacting with it. The environment encompasses five things: maintenance, support systems and housing; system operators; threats; and shipping, handling and storage. System operators refer to human beings responsible for controlling the system. Threats refer to external entities that pose danger to the system. Support systems refer to components on which the system relies for executing its mission.

With regard to the complexity of modern systems, Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer (2011) point out that every system is a component of another larger system. The larger system might be categorized as a separate entity in itself. Modern systems engineering is similar in complexity, though it emphasizes organizational entity (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). Since enterprises integrate social systems and technical systems, the complexities of modern systems seem to be unpredictable (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011).

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Chapter Four: Systems Development Process

This chapter focused on system development process, emphasizing system life cycle, evolutionary characteristics of the development process, systems engineering method, and testing throughout system development.

According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer (2011), a major system development is an extended sophisticated effort in satisfying users` needs. System development involves several disciplines and applies new technology. In addition, the development requires a progressive increase in dedication of resources, and it is undertaken in a step-wise way taking into consideration schedule and budgetary constraints (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). The system development life cycle can be divided into three significant stages: concept development, engineering development, and post-development.

During the concept development, system engineers establish the needs of the system, investigate possible concepts, and choose a preferred system concept (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer, 2011). This stage might be subdivided into other three sub-stages: needs analysis, concept exploration, and concept definition. Needs analysis essentially validates and defines the need for a new system, while demonstrating feasibility. Concept exploration defines the functional performance requirements of the system. Concept definition determines alternative concepts and chooses the preferred concept based on the performance, schedule, cost and risk constraints. In addition, concept definition defines system specifications.

During the engineering development, systems engineer authenticates technology, changes the chosen concept into software and hardware designs. In addition, this stage also involves the construction and testing of production models. Dym, Agogino, Eris, Freyand Leifer (2005) divided this stage into three sub-stages: advanced development, engineering design, and integration and evaluation. Advanced development involves identification of risk areas, reduction of these risks via analysis and development. Engineering design performs initial and final designs (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). It also involves building and testing of software and hardware components of the system. Integration and evaluation involves integration of components into a working prototype, and assessment of the prototype in order to correct any error that might result in future system failure.

During the post-development stage, the engineers produce and deploy the system and perform maintenance operations (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). Post-development consists of two sub-stages: production, and operations and support. In the production sub-stage, the engineer develops tooling and manufactures system products. The system is also availed to the users (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer, 2011). Operations and support involve provision of support system operation and maintenance.

Systems undergo progression after implementation (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). During progression, system designs and definitions evolve from concepts to reality. System diagrams, products, and models seem to change correspondingly. In addition, the key users of the system and participants of the development process also change (Lykins, Friedenthal, & Meilich, 2000).

In general, the systems engineering methods involve four significant steps (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). The first step is requirement analysis, which encompasses the definition of requirements needed. Second step is functional definition; it involves translation of the requirements into functions. Thirdly, physical definition produces optional physical implementations. Lastly, design validation involves modeling of the system environment, including users and other external systems. The four steps are utilized repetitively in every stage during development. According to Lykins, Friedenthal and Meilich (2000), the utilization of systems engineering method changes over the life cycle as the system progresses to materialization.

System testing refers to the process of detecting errors and their causes. Knowing these causes, an engineer can resolve them to ensure that the system does not fail in future. Resolving the errors later after the system has evolved over time might be costly. As a result, test planning and analysis are the key responsibilities of systems engineers.

Chapter Five: Systems Engineering Management

The fifth chapter of the book discusses systems engineering management, with major focus on system development risks, work breakdown structure (WBS), systems engineering management plan (SEMP) and organization. According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour and Biemer (2011), systems engineering is an entity engrossed in project management, and it provides system integration, technical guidelines, and technical coordination. WBS and SEMP are management tools that can be used to manage systems engineering.

With regard to the WBS, the roles of the systems engineer are resource allocation, task definition and customer interaction. WBS ensures hierarchical task organization that subdivides total effort into small elements. According to Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey and Leifer (2005), the WBS provides the basis for costing, monitoring, and scheduling. The Critical Path Method (CPM) is one tool used for scheduling project activities (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). The CPM is based on the breakdown structure and creates a network of sequential activities. An analysis of the network allows the engineer and management to detect paths that take the longest to complete. On the other hand, the SEMP is helpful in planning the implementation of all systems engineering tasks. As such, the SEMP defines the responsibilities and roles of all the participants (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005).

Risk management is one of main challenges faced by systems engineers because all system development activities are prone to risks and uncertainties (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). Reducing these risks is a continuous process (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005). In addition, the risks related to a system should be decreased as the investment increases. Engineers can plan how to alleviate risks by developing a construction plan. Two important activities often stated in the risk management plan are risk assessment and risk mitigation. Risk assessment determines the probability of risk occurrence. Risk mitigation involves establishment of measures that can reduce the effects of the risk in case it occurs.

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Chapter Six: Needs Analysis

This chapter discusses the needs analysis in systems engineering, mainly focusing on operations analysis, functional analysis, feasibility definition, needs validation, and system operational requirements. Systems can also be developed based on two approaches: need-driven approach and technology-driven approach. The need-driven approach is often used in development of defense and government programs (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011). This approach necessitates an affordable and technical approach. On the other hand, the technology-driven approach is applied in the development of most commercial systems. It is often influenced by technological advancements. Needs analysis consists of four different stages, which are operations analysis, functional analysis, feasibility definition and needs validation (Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymour, & Biemer, 2011).

Operations analysis requires studies and analyses in order to generate and comprehend the operational requirements of the system. According to Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer (2011), these studies and analyses feed the development of the systems. During functional analysis, initial system functions are identified and organized that will achieve operational objectives. In addition, the functions are examined and are appraised by the stakeholders and users. Feasibility definition means that the development is decided upon, costed and articulated to the stakeholders. In addition, an early feasible concept is also articulated. Lastly, needs validation means that the vetted set of operational needs is validated. System concepts that satisfy the operational needs are assessed with agreed-upon measures of effectiveness.


Kossiakoff, Sweet, Seymourand Biemer’s (2011) book provides of the readers with a possibility to understand the origin of modern systems engineering. The six chapters summarized by this paper have provided an in-depth understanding of systems engineering and principles. The discipline of systems engineering overlaps with several related fields, including mechanical, aerodynamic, civil engineering and electrical disciplines among others. The chapters have focused on such issues as its inception as a discipline, systems engineering landscape, structure of complex systems, system development process, systems engineering management, as well as needs analysis. Unlike other traditional disciplines, systems engineering is concerned with customer needs and operational environment.