Thursday, April 21, 2011

There IS an "I" in Team: Integration is the key to success in complex engineering systems

Software has effectively become the driving force of innovation in engineering and, in particular, provides the foundation of design in mechatronic systems. As these systems increase in complexity, the ability to effectively manage and communicate the business-critical elements of the software development process can broadly and deeply affect the success of the entire organization.

The movement towards model-based development (MBD) brings the software development process to the forefront. In MBD, the system model is developed in the initial conception phase of the product and provides a common link to other development artifacts that are dependent on its design. Model simulations are used to confirm, refine and validate requirements early in the product development lifecycle, when changes are easier to accommodate, and can be reused later in the software lifecycle to develop and verify acceptance criteria just prior to release. Faster design iterations and reduced design costs are realized by using MBD, expanding an organization's innovation capacity.

So why are organizations that have already adopted Model-Based Development processes, still facing significant challenges in the development of their software products?

As the pace of change increases and products continue to grow in complexity, the risks and costs of manual and disconnected processes between development teams can diminish the benefits of modeling and simulation, resulting in:
  • Inconsistency in mapping the current design to the most current requirements

  • Costly, error-prone and time-consuming manual communication of requirements change when it impacts models/simulations

  • Difficult and time-consuming to perform root cause analysis on failed test cases

  • Costly and time-consuming to demonstrate compliance with regulations and governance demands

Integration is the key to helping multi-disciplinary teams overcome the challenges that are prevalent in complex engineering systems. A system and software lifecycle management (SSLM) solution can capture, manage and control models and simulations as artifacts in a coherent system. The configuration of and change to these artifacts are effectively managed, and the relationships with upstream and downstream artifacts in the development lifecycle (requirements, test cases, specifications, source code etc.) can be established and are traceable.

Successfully integrating MBD with a SSLM solution makes the following activities possible:

  1. Management visibility of progress at critical parts of the development cycle

  2. Compliance validation at selected points in the process

  3. Design verification at a much earlier stage of product development

  4. Test developed system components using rapid prototyping and Hardware-in-the-loop techniques

  5. Automatically generate and manage multiple iterations of code for deployment

  6. Re-use of designs, configurations and parameter sets

Achieving a high level of control and collaboration over software development greatly increases an organization's ability to predict the final result of their activities. The only way to achieve this control and collaboration is through the use of a coherent System and Software Lifecycle Management solution, and fully integrating a Model-Based Development process with these solutions.

Please feel free to comment on whether you are considering adopting model-based development processes, and what challenges you are facing in doing so.

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