Opinion on “Building a Systems Integration Lab”

LinkedIn discussion in the System Integration and Test Group

A System Integration Lab (SIL) is a “System”. It is an element of the Test System, in a namespace something like “Program:: Enabling System::Test System::SIL” parallel to “Program:: System of Interest”. It is likely classified as a facility which enables integration level test and possibly much more of the components (e.g.; acceptance, system, component level testing) or quite possibly the whole of your System of Interest. It may provide a SW or HW Execution Environment for the components of your System of Interest and for Test Components of the Test System. It may enable test processes, methods and tools. In the SIL you may plan, manage, design, implement, execute, log and report your integration and test activities called for in the development plan(s) of the System of Interest. The SIL may support all of the lower level processes (e.g.; configuration management, data management, resource management, calibration management, etc…) deemed necessary by your program. Document these requirements and develop a system which satisfies them! It is suggested that 50 to 75% of defects in a System occur during the requirement analysis and design life-cycle phases. “Pay Me now or Pay me later”. “Ounce of Prevention or Pound of Cure”
Like all systems a Test System has an “Architecture”. Its architecture description describes and specifies the test system’s components and component interactions in sufficient detail to realize the objective of your investment in developing the system. The SIL is an element of the test system (I repeat myself, I know), the test system is the context within which the SIL is realized.
The descriptions of your architecture may observe a framework similar to the DoD or MoD Architecture Framework (this framework helps you understand what you need to think about, there are other frameworks just as valuable). Use a framework as a guide to help you manage the problem space and tailor the framework to suit the objectives you have set for your architecture. I would suggest that the objectives of your SIL be bounded by a Risk v. Investment analysis. You must bound your scope!
Do not expend your precious program resources on pedantic minutia, set priorities for your resources and invest in accordance with those priorities. Document these requirements and document how their satisfaction is to be determined. Write test requirements and test cases for EVERY SIL requirement. Use continuous integration as you develop your SIL to measure when you have been successful satisfying the SIL’s user needs. You may discover you over specified! STOP when the need is satisfied! If you don’t measure you won’t know when or if you ever finish.  Describing the architecture must be in your plan; it is how you will be successful. If it isn’t in your plan, you won’t do it!
Contextual Architecture; What is/are the “Goal(s)” of the SIL User? Are there measures of Goal success? What capability must the SIL provide to realize User goal(s)? Document the “Need” that the SIL must satisfy and how to measure satisfaction. If this sounds like I am suggesting writing business use cases, you understand me. Write these Use Cases, then write the specifications to satisfy them.
It won’t take much Google effort, using terms like “GAO, ”program failure”, “concept of operation”, “cancelation” to appreciate that many major acquisition efforts failed because there was never an adequate Concept of Operation created before an attempt to build a system began.
Now that we have established the SIL is a System we know the balance of the systems engineering activities required to be successful; most of which have been addressed in some detail by others already. This isn’t rocket science, just systems engineering.  Model-based Systems Engineering may help you be successful in developing your Test System.

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