Capability Engineering

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Capability Engineering Perspectives

The term capability is widely used across many industrial sectors and has begun to take on various specific meanings across, and even within, those sectors. Terms such as capability-based acquisition, capability engineering and management, life capability management, capability sponsor, etc. are now ubiquitous in defense and elsewhere. Henshaw et al. (2011) have identified at least eight worldviews of capability and capability engineering and concluded that the task of capability engineering is not consistently defined across the different communities.

Whilst most practitioners recognize that there is a strong relationship between capability and system of systems (SoS), there is no agreed position; however, there are two beliefs that are widely accepted among the different communities, including:

  • a capability comprises a range of systems, processes, people, information and organizations. (i.e. a system at levels three through five in Hitchin's (2003) five layer model, such as a Carrier-Strike capability) and
  • the capability is an emergent property of SoS (i.e. the capability of Carrier-Strike to engage targets within 300 miles of the sea.)

Services View of SoSE

As it has been discussed throughout the Systems of Systems (SoS) knowledge area, a ‘system of systems’ is typically approached from the viewpoint of bringing together multiple systems to provide broader capability. As is discussed in Architecting Approaches for Systems of Systems, the networking of the constituent systems in a SoS is often a key part of an SoS. In some circumstances, the entire content of a SoS is information and the SoS brings together multiple information systems to support the information needs of a broader community. These ‘information technology (IT)-based’ SoSs have the same set of characteristics of other SoSs and face many of the same challenges. Currently, IT has adopted a ‘services’ view of this type of SoS and increasingly applies a International Organization for Standaradization (ISO) 20000 series (Information technology -- Service management) or Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) v. 3 (OGC 2009) based approach to the design and management of information-based SoS. A service perspective simplifies SoSE as it:

  • is a more natural way for users to interact with and understand a SoS,
  • allows designers to design specific services to meet defined performance and effectiveness targets, and
  • enables specific service levels to be tested and monitored through life.

Although it has not been proven to be universally applicable, the services view works well in both IT and transportation SoS.


Works Cited

Erl, T. 2008. SOA Principles of Service Design. Boston, MA, USA: Prentice Hall Pearson Education.

Hitchins, D.K. 2003. Advanced Systems Thinking, Engineering and Management. Norwood, MA, USA: Artech House, Inc.

OGC (Office of Government Commerce). 2009. ITIL Lifecycle Publication Suite Books. London, UK: The Stationery Office.

Primary References

Henshaw, M., D. Kemp, P. Lister, A. Daw, A. Harding, A. Farncombe, and M. Touchin. 2011. "Capability Engineering - An Analysis of Perspectives." Presented at International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) 21st International Symposium, June 20-23, 2011, Denver, CO, USA.

Additional References

Davies, J.K. 2011. Survey of Background Literature for Capability Engineering. INCOSE UK Capability Working Group Report.

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