INCOSE Working Group Addresses System and Software Interfaces
Sarah Sheard, Leung Chim, Joseph Marvin, John Cadigan, Rita Creel, Michael E. Pafford
In the 21st century, when any sophisticated system has significant software content, it is increasingly critical to articulate and improve the interface between systems engineering and software engineering, i.e., the relationships between systems and software engineering technical and management processes, products, tools, and outcomes. Although systems engineers and software engineers perform similar activities and use similar processes, their primary responsibilities and concerns differ. Systems engineers focus on the global aspects of a system. Their responsibilities span the lifecycle and involve ensuring the various elements of a system—e.g., hardware, software, firmware, engineering environments, and operational environments—work together to deliver capability. Software engineers also have responsibilities that span the lifecycle, but their focus is on activities to ensure the software satisfies software‐relevant system requirements and constraints. Software engineers must maintain sufficient knowledge of the non‐software elements of the systems that will execute their software, as well as the systems their software must interface with. Similarly, systems engineers must maintain sufficient awareness of the software to enable early identification and resolution of software risks and issues driven by other system elements. Thus, to enable continued progress in creating and sustaining capability in complex, interconnected systems, systems and software engineers must commit to improving the interfaces between their disciplines, to aligning and integrating their terminology, processes, methods, and tools. Recognizing the need to improve the system engineering‐software engineering interface, INCOSE approved the charter of the System and Software Interface Working Group (SaSIWG) in 2017. At its initial meeting at the INCOSE International Symposium 2017 (IS 2017) in Adelaide, Australia, the SaSIWG derived working group objectives from lists of brainstormed systems and software issues. This paper documents the interface issues elicited, grouped into seven categories, along with system software interface use cases identified by SaSIWG members. The interface issues and use cases expose questions for the SaSIWG to prioritize and respond to. The paper concludes with a summary of the SaSIWG’s plan to respond to these questions and strengthen the interface between the systems engineering and software engineering disciplines.