[ What is a Systems Engineering Profile ]
[ Profile Topic Areas ]
[ Flowchart of Profile Development ]
[ Web-based Profile Requirements ]
[ Project Deliverables ]


While the discipline of Systems Engineering has been practiced primarily by the Defense, Aerospace, and some Civil sectors during the past 2-3 decades, we expect that in the 21st Century, nontraditional engineering (and even some non-engineering domains) will benefit from systems engineering techniques. All of these sectors will need to develop highly complex systems, with strict requirements on performance, reliability, economy, and short time-to-market.

A Systems Engineering Application Profile (SEAP) is a high-level description of how systems engineering knowledge, procedures, processes, and technology can be used for problem solving within an application domain. After reading a profile, readers should be left with a basic understanding of what makes an application domain tick!


By assembling and presenting a suite of applications profiles in one place, we hope to identify patterns in problem solving strategies and techniques that are common to multiple application domains (INCOSE 95).

Development of these profiles will advance systems engineering education, promote the discipline of systems engineering, and enable systems engineering practice across application domains.


I encourage you to develop a profile for a domain in which you have a keen interest, and for which you have access to information from experts.

Because team development is an essential component of systems engineering, profiles should focus on the end-to-end solution of a problem that requires the resources of at least 20-30 people. "How I installed a web server in my apartment" is a good example of an an unacceptable topic. Suitable topic areas include:

    Automated Highway Systems 
    Chemical Systems (e.g., oil/chemical refineries)
    Commercial Aircraft
    Electronic Design Automation
    Electronic Packaging
    Energy Systems
    Environmental Restoration/Cleanup
    Entertainment Systems (e.g., Networked Video Games)
    Geographic Information Systems
    Healthcare Information Systems 
    Highway Transportation Systems
    Intelligent Building Systems
    Intranets/Extranets/Web Browsers....
    Infrastructure Systems (e.g., bridges, dams, roads etc..)
    Medical devices
    Microelectronics manufacturing
    Motor Vehicles
    Natural Resources Management
    Office Automation
    Petroleum Exploration
    Power Systems Engineering
    Robotic devices
    Satellite Design and Deployment
    Structural Systems (e.g., buildings and highway bridges)
    Systems Engineering Automation/Tools.
    Urban Planning
    Waste Management and Disposal

Of course, you are welcome to propose your own topic.

Good introductions to some of these application domains can be found in special issues of Scientific American, Communications of the ACM and IEEE Design and Test. Another good place to look is the Proceedings of the International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE), especially papers that have been presented in the "Systems Applications" tracks.


The design and operation of complex systems involves the development and coordinated management of complex relationships among a variety of subsystems and components. Some of these entities and relationships are related to the project itself; others belong to the organizational infrastructure that supports the project development.

With these comments in mind, Figure 1 shows the ingredients, processes, and viewpoints that should be included in your systems profile.

Figure 1 : Flowchart for Systems Profile Development

SEAPs should help readers with technical and management backgrounds and interests understand why an application exists, what the application domain does, how it accomplishes its purpose, and who makes things happen. These factors are shown along the left-most column of Figure 1.

SEAPs should also look at system lifecycle development as the composition of interacting processes:

Each process should consider activities/tasks from the conceptual stages of development through retirement of a product/service.

Organization and Management Viewpoint

Four broad classes of questions for the organization are as follows:

Note. I do not expect that all groups will have sufficient information to answer all of these questions.

Engineering System and Project Development Viewpoint

Four broad classes of questions for development of the project/engineering system are as follows:

Profiles should consider the extent to which these viewpoints can be enhanced through the use of technology, sophisticated techniques for modeling system behavior, and optimization and trade-off analysis procedures.


Each web-based profile should contain the following sections:


Student groups may have one or two persons. There will be three project deliverables:


In grading the projects I will be looking for:

Innovative use of web technologies will be appreciated and is strongly encouraged.


  1. International Council of Systems Engineering Applications Forum Working Group, Systems Engineering Application Profiles, Version 1.0, May 1, 1996.
  2. Systems Engineering Fundamentals, Defense Systems Management College Press, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, October 1999.

Developed in September 1999 by Mark Austin
Copyright © 1999-2000, Institute for Systems Research, University of Maryland