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Model Based Systems Engineering

I’m doing just a little learning about Digital Engineering, which seems to be almost synonymous with Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE). The concept of MBSE is that, in contrast to more traditional methods where the team-of-teams creates documents to coordinate all efforts (think long contract-style English text), the team creates a variety of models. Some of those models would be UML-like diagrams, others might be executable. Each model interface provides a view on the underlying data & model - a view useful to some of the development teams for understanding what must get build. All done in digital formats sharable among all teams. Those might even translate automatically into some of the same documents from the contrasted method.

This video provides a good overview of the concept and purpose, but this point in the video (40:40) provides a great look at how to get started doing MBSE in an organization:


Specifically, “start with a small team and achieve quick wins”, and “clearly choose which problems you want to solve with MBSE”.

So - now I’m in an organization that has been told to adopt these principles, but which probably already does a lot of this just without calling it MBSE. Trying to think about how we’d get them to fully embrace it, I think a good way to start is:

  • Get a team together to find places where we’re already using these principles

This is something I’ll have to discover by looking at how teams are doing systems engineering. But - because I believe the benefits of modeling and simulation are clear, and apply easily (sometimes automatically) when doing software system dev, I believe there will be many parts of the org already using models nearly consistent with MBSE.

  • Identify and document the stories (case studies?) of how the strongest teams are already using MBSE

I’ll use these results to communicate to leadership the current successes of the teams in adopting MBSE, and show the teams how leadership have reacted to those successes. Presumably there will be wild enthusiasm and then this would increase buy-in at all levels.

  • Provide cheap/free training to those teams to help them understand how they’re using MBSE

While the teams are already doing parts of MBSE, they need to understand how much further they do/don’t need to go. They need to understand the MBSE concept more strongly so they can reflect effectively on their system engineering processes. Providing the basics can accomplish this. You can determine which training they need to get better during the next step.

  • Use those teams as the core of a working group to determine how to empower them more strongly

Once the teams understand where they are, and once they have some basic training about the MBSE concept, they can determine where they want to go. They can suggest ways to get there for themselves, and others.

  • Take the lessons learned from that working group and determine how to steer other teams to follow in those footsteps

The teams already employing MBSE concepts will have wins identified and socialized, and they’ll have a documented plan for how they can improve. These are likely all that’s required to start moving other teams in the MBSE direction.