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The Systems Engineer’s Role in Project Success . J. H Rothenberg May 1, 2006. Project Success. Mission Success and Project Success are not the same Mission Success is measured by results against requirements and is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for Project Success

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The Systems Engineer’s Role in Project Success

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The Systems Engineer’s Role in Project Success

J. H Rothenberg

May 1, 2006

Project Success

  • Mission Success and Project Success are not the same

  • Mission Success is measured by results against requirements and is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for Project Success

  • Project Success is measured by both reality and perceptions of the stakeholders that varies over the project lifecycle

  • The project Systems Engineer is key to Mission Success and as such is a key partner with the Project Manager in enabling Project Success

An Important Characteristic of a Successful Project

No Surprises

Project Stakeholders

  • Project Advocates

    • NASA Administrator

    • Program Executive

    • Sponsoring HQ Directorate

    • Science Community

    • Prime Contractors

  • Project Sponsors & Oversight

    • NASA Administrator

    • Sponsoring HQ Directorate

    • NASA Comptroller

    • Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP)& Office of Management & Budget(OMB)

    • Congress

    • Center Director & Institutional Managers

  • Project Execution

    • Program Executive

    • Center Director & Institutional Managers

    • Project Manager

    • Systems Engineer

    • Prime contractor

    • Development and Operations Team

Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering

“an approach to engineering that emphasizes the scientific method and examination of all aspects of the engineering project”*

Systems Engineering Product

Ensuring within an acceptable risk level the delivery of a competitive cost and technically effective system to meet an objective **

*Source: Encarta Encyclopedia

** Source: Anonymous - found on a discarded note pad in the GSFC Library

Challenges to Mission Success

  • Science risk

  • Systems engineering leadership

  • Requirements definition & stability

  • Programmatic resource constraints

  • Enabling technology maturity

  • Project mission complexity/risks

  • System integration complexity

  • System resources margins


  • Opportunity for risks to be introduces occur at every stage of a program but many are built-in during the early stages of a program

    • Science measurement risk

    • Schedule driven development decisions and before requirements are solidified

    • Technical complexity of the mission

    • Design choices and margins

    • Technology maturity assumptions

    • Analysis, test and operations program designed to meet budgets

    • Optimistic schedule and cost projections required to sell the program

    • Development cost and schedule Risk

    • Residual Mission Success risks at launch

  • Risks are all viewed differently by each stakeholder and their risk tolerance changes over a project’s life cycle

  • Characteristics of Project Success

    • Mission Success

    • No surprises

    • Cost growth funding without major impact to other programs

    • Leave a Project legacy in approach/ technology/ programmatic success

    • No surprises

    • Mission Success

    Challenges toProject Success

    Typical Challenges as Viewed by a Project Manager

    Project Formulation = Sell phase

    • Attract staff for Study Team

    • Concept design - Innovative

    • Mission design – Affordable & low risk

    • Make/buy decision

      Design Phase = Meet requirements & manage risk within shrinking margins

    • System design – More affordable & prudent risk management plan

      Phase C/D Budget Allocation = Reallocation of resources & survival phase

    • Reduced capability, margins & risk reduction plans

    • Budget cuts

    • Reduced margins & risk reduction plans

    • Navigate development challenges & control expectations

    • Reduced margins & risk reduction plans

    • Absorb budget cuts and cost growth

      Launch & Operational Commissioning = I’m done

    • Give keys to operations and find another job

    Management Tools

    Systems Engineering Opportunities to Enhance Probability of Project Success

    Provide proactive technical leadership

    • Mission Design and System Requirements Trades

      • Leading the prioritization and controlling of requirements

      • Identify and ensure stakeholder recognition inherent residual risk at launch and options for mitigation

      • System architecture and interface choices

      • Build in options and decision points for descope

    • System Design and Analysis

      • Use cost as design parameter

    • System Risk Mitigation and Management Plans

      • Recognize and appropriately plan programmatic and mission risk mitigation and management

    • System and Operations Development Technical Management

      • Ensure stakeholder recognition of risks resulting from external environment changes

      • ConOps & operations design to safe, reliable and cost effective mission operations

    Management Tools to Enable Probability of Project Success

    Make stakeholders a partner through open and frequent upward communications of baseline and changes

    • Mission requirements & commitments

    • Technical and programmatic risks and mitigation plans

    • Resource requirements including reserves and technical resources margins

    • Buy-in to Project unique challenges and residual risks

    • Descope options with key decision points

    • Impact of externally imposed changes

    • Residual risks “at launch”

    Management Tools to Enable Probability of Project Success

    Routine open upward and downward communications supportive to reporting problems/impacts at all levels

    • Informational/ trends/ problems & solutions in-work/need for management actions

      - Weekly “Top Ten” - informational for all stakeholders

      • Monthly - resources commitments/margins

    • Routine informational visits to stakeholders & open invitation to attend reviews

    • Build trust and a partnership with all stakeholders

      Ensure appropriate “external’ independent reviews

    Mission and Project Success

    Requires the Project Manager and Systems Engineer to:

    • Understand the external and internal environment at all times

    • Take lead in baseline and control of requirements

    • Establish realistic baseline, key descope opportunities/decision points and make stakeholders a partner

    • Maintain open communications

    • Anticipate outcomes and control stakeholder expectations – No surprises

    • Independent review used appropriately are OK and should be viewed as both an oversight and communications channel

    • Active management - use runway before you

      No Surprises

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