Bridging Systems Engineering and Complex Systems Sciences
Third Millennium Systems LLC
Last modified: May 12, 2006
This paper clarifies the state of systems engineering today and explains the necessity of more tightly connecting systems engineering with the sciences of complex systems. Systems engineering is having a very difficult time building the complex interoperating software-intensive systems that are possible and needed today in the timeframes and budgets that customers can tolerate. Part of the problem is that there is no underlying theory beneath the principles and heuristics according to which systems engineers do their jobs. Complex systems are discovering principles that directly apply in many ways to the problems of systems engineering, yet for the most part the bridge between these systems sciences and systems engineering is inadequate. It is now time to forge stronger ties between these two fields.
Systems engineering, meaning our ability to engineer increasingly more complex systems, is in crisis. Studies have repeatedly shown the difficulty of specifying and building the large systems we want and need today. This paper shows examples of systems architecting heuristics and systems engineering principles from the literature, which have not had any theory to underpin them, and shows that complex systems have developed theoretical underpinning already for some of them. Now what is needed is a direct connection so that these connections can be put to use and the heuristics can be played out in what-if scenarios...under what conditions are the level of detail enough? when do the conditions apply?
It is time. The need is there in the systems engineering world, in fact, it is baldly and sorely there. The ability is there, with many research results coming out every day and many graduate students seeking important thesis topics each year. It is time for systems engineering stakeholders to begin to learn enough about complex systems to see where current research has already provided answers and where future re-search can provide more and better answers. It is time for researchers to look at systems engineering to see what needs cry out for help. It is time for everyone to work together with all the stakeholders to help solve the world’s problems.