Use Case 1: Practicing Systems Engineers

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Entry-level systems engineers will use the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK) as a quick, comprehensive reference for systems engineering (SE) topics while they are learning to be systems engineers. The SEBoK will provide a single source with leading references for definition of terms and explanations of basic concepts and principles associated with SE. More experienced systems engineers will use the SEBoK as a reference to find articles and textbooks that provide more in-depth coverage of topics required to accomplish a work activity. The SEBoK authors have taken the time to identify many valuable assets and sources of knowledge. This will allow practicing systems engineers to reliably gain knowledge more quickly, that will lead to less time spent searching for and learning new information, and more time getting direct work done.

Additionally, the SEBoK provides a common set of terms, definitions, and concepts to establish a consistent framework for a team of practicing engineers. The framework helps form a bridge across the legacy knowledge of practicing engineers to enhance communication, which is often a major obstacle for new teams. Please see Enabling Teams to Perform Systems Engineering for more information.

Use of Topics

The SEBoK topics provide great value to practicing systems engineers. These engineers have limited time to research topics and find relevant information. Practicing engineers often have limited access to educational resources or to research expertise. The SEBoK provides a compendium of, and references to, some of the best information on SE. This information is based on research, proven practices, and emerging knowledge. The SEBoK helps provide a means of connecting with educators and researchers through the topics and references provided. The primary references will help practicing engineers find reliable, high-quality information more quickly than they would if they had only the internet as a means of searching because the SEBoK sources have been reviewed and vetted by a team of experts.

Having the SEBoK organized by articles that are generally less than 2000 words will help practicing engineers quickly get an overview of relevant topics. The primary references will provide the greater detail that is most relevant to each topic. In cases where the practicing engineer needs additional detail or breadth, the additional references can be consulted.

It is expected that the practicing systems engineer will most often access the SEBoK using a search function with some key words that indicate the topics they are interested in learning. The next most likely access methods would be 1) to check the SEBoK table of contents or an index to find the topics of interest and 2) through the search results of an Internet search engine based on a specific topical search.

Occasionally, practicing engineers who are new to SE and intend on fully learning the subject will read the SEBoK in sequence. This may also be true for practicing engineers in a training course run by their employer. To facilitate in-sequence use, the SEBoK has navigation links in each article, allowing easy access to the previous and next articles in the table of contents, as well as a link to the parent article in the hierarchy.

Implementation Examples

Practicing systems engineers will find the examples useful when these examples are aligned with the domain in which the systems engineer is working, though some more general examples will occasionally be useful. Because the SEBoK focuses on the discipline of SE and has minimal coverage of the numerous domains where SE can be applied, the practicing systems engineer will get limited understanding of domain-specific concerns from the discussion in Parts 2 through 6. However, some SE examples within a particular domain are provided in Part 7, Systems Engineering Implementation Examples. Though all relevant domains are not covered, these examples may be useful for understanding how an application domain may impact SE activities. For SEBoK version 1.0, the authors plan to add additional examples.

Model-Based Systems Engineering Practitioners

Practicing systems engineers will use the SEBoK, and in particular its knowledge area on Representing Systems with Models, to practice Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) in order to create models of systems to support the various system life cycle activities, including their requirements, high-level architecture, detailed design, testing, usage, maintenance, and disposal.

Faculty members will use the SEBoK to support curriculum development and assessment, and ensure accuracy and completeness of the MBSE part of the curriculum. They will be able to define the modeling methodologies and languages they wish to include in their curriculum, such as System Modeling Language (SysML) and Object-Process Methodology (OPM).

SE researchers will be able to adopt an MBSE approach and base their SE research on models in order to make their research topics more formal and rigorous.

Vignette: Systems Engineering for Medical Devices

Tara Washington has been working as a engineer for the medical device company HealthTech for seven years. Besides continuing to improve her strong software skills, she has shown an aptitude for systems thinking. She has also taken courses in electrical engineering , mechanical engineering, and physiology to obtain a better understanding of the products that her software is supporting. This has led her to perform as an effective software system analyst on the SE teams of her last two projects .

HealthTech’s Research Division has come up with a new concept for a highly programmable radiation therapy device that monitors the effect of the radiation on various parts of the body and adjusts the parameters of the radiation dosage to maximize the effectiveness of the dosage, subject to a number of safety constraints . The software-intensiveness of the device has led Tara’s current project manager to recommend her as the lead systems engineer for the design and development of the product.

Tara welcomes the opportunity, but realizes that, although she has picked up enough of the domain knowledge that the lead SE role needs, her SE skills have been largely picked up by intuition. In order to build on her SE capabilities , she consults some of HealthTech’s lead systems engineers and studies the SEBoK.

She finds that Part 1, SEBoK 1.0 Introduction, gives her an overview of the SEBoK and the Scope and Context of the SEBoK topic outlines the key activities that she will need to lead, as well as those activities she will need to collaborate on with the systems developers and project/systems management personnel. It also provides her with an overview of the other parts of the SEBoK that will help her understand SE concepts, principles , and modeling approaches in Representing Systems with Models in Part 2; life cycle processes , management, technical practices, approaches for specifying, architecting , verifying and validating the hardware, software, and human factors aspects of the product, as well as common pitfalls to avoid and risks to manage (Systems Engineering and Management in Part 3); guidelines for the SE of products (Applications of Systems Engineering in Part 4 and its references); required SE Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Attitudes (KSAA) needed for a project (Enabling Systems Engineering in Part 5 and its references); and specialty engineering disciplines that may be key to the project’s success (Related Disciplines) in Part 6. In particular, as Tara is aware of the deaths caused by the Therac-25 radiation therapy device, she not only reads the Safety Engineering topic in Part 6, but also all of its key references.

While reading about SE life cycle process models in Systems Engineering and Management in Part 3, Tara sees the reference to the Next Generation Medical Infusion Pump Case Study in Systems Engineering Implementation Examples in Part 7. She finds the case study highly relevant to her medical-device situation and organized into phases similar to those used at HealthTech. In particular, it gave Tara a good understanding of how a project such as hers would progress by concurrently evaluating technology opportunities , understanding the needs of various device stakeholders (e.g., patients, nurses, doctors, hospital administrators, and regulatory agencies), and progressing through a succession of increasingly detailed prototypes , specifications, designs, plans , business cases, and safety analyses of a product. The case study also pointed her toward the U.S. National Research Council book, Human-System Integration in the System Development Process, which was the expanded source of the case study and also provided numerous good practices for human-systems needs analysis, organizational analysis, operations analysis, prototyping, usability criteria formulation, hardware-software-human factors integration, process decision milestone review criteria, and risk management .

As a result, Tara is able to better plan, staff, organize, control, and direct the SE portion of the HealthTech radiation therapy device project and to help bring the project to a successful conclusion.


The SEBoK will be viewed by practicing engineers as an authoritative knowledge resource that can be accessed quickly to gain essential high level information. It will be viewed as a quick method for identifying the best references for more in depth study and research into SE topics when an individual’s current level of understanding is not enough to get the job done.

The SEBoK can also be used in training courses and as a resource for teaching practicing engineers.


Works Cited


Primary References

No primary references have been identified for version 0.75. Please provide any recommendations on primary references in your review.

Additional References

No additional references have been identified for version 0.75. Please provide any recommendations on additional references in your review.

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SEBoK v. 1.9.1 released 30 September 2018

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