Three Key Traits of Architecture-Driven Engineering

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Are you struggling to integrate your hardware and software? Architecture-driven engineering can help. It addresses many of the integration challenges today’s engineers face. But not all architecture-driven engineering initiatives are created equal, so you should proceed with caution. This post examines the three key traits of architecture-driven engineering and what to consider when taking this approach.

The Architecture-Driven Opportunity

Today, many companies struggle to unite their teams to create smart, connected products. Systems engineering can help engineers from different design domains bridge those communication gaps. It prevents integration and performance issues that often restrict the prototype and testing stages. But many companies still take a checkbox approach to systems engineering, focusing only on developing an architecture in isolation. In doing so, they may not realize the true value that systems engineering can deliver.

In this post, we explain why context is key for your systems engineering initiatives. We discuss how to make informed decisions and seamlessly transition to the detailed design stages.

Keep the System in Mind

When developing your systems architecture, try to pinpoint the purpose of your system. Then, keep the focus on those core requirements across the design process. This system-first approach can prevent late-stage issues.

For example, let’s assume you focus on optimizing your architecture to ensure your software runs fast on electronics hardware. When you get to the late planning stages, you may realize that you maxed out the electrical system’s network bandwidth. Now, your system cannot function properly.

Or, maybe you only focus on the weight and cost of an electrical harness. When you test the system, you realize that it performs poorly or, worse still, not at all. These are just two examples of what can go wrong when you don’t look at the system as a whole.

The core message here is clear: context is vital. It’s essential to view each subsystem in the context of the greater system. Focus on the overall system’s purpose, not just the performance of one subsystem. Then, manage any architectural trade-offs with this context in mind.

You should also track any proposed changes against your market or customer requirements. Those are the benchmarks against which the system is tested and measured. They allow you to evaluate the design across the entire system development. If you can achieve this, then your architecture-driven engineering initiatives will succeed.

Functional, System-Level Trade Studies

Every design effort involves iteration and exploration. That’s a fact. It’s how you can identify the best solutions, even in the face of difficult, competing, or conflicting requirements. But endless iterations can push back project deadlines and increase costs. Plus, protracted iterations are a frustrating working scenario for any engineer. Often, it can feel like you’re going around in circles and are nowhere nearer the solution. Yet, it’s only by iterating and exploring the available options that you can design better architectures. So, what’s the solution?

Informed decision-making is key here. Instead of iterating for full coverage of a design space, set up measures to track market or customer requirements. Then, when you explore any modifications to an architecture, you get real-time feedback.

For example, maybe you want to move the software functions around in your architecture. You may want to add or remove electronic systems. Or you’re looking to reshape some electrical components to improve the design. Tracking market and customer requirements enables you to understand how the architecture performance will change in each scenario. Using these insights, you can explore the right direction for your systems architecture and replace those endless iterations with a focused and effective development process. Lower project costs and tighter timescales will be your reward.

Smooth, Frictionless Transitions

Now that you have a proposed architecture, you need to translate it into a detailed design. This transition is often a difficult one to manage. Many current approaches are manual and cumbersome. As a result, you may lose vital information, details, and connections as you pass from the proposed architecture to detailed design. This means your design loses context, and that spells disaster. If you lose that critical context, you may end up making uninformed design decisions. This is where errors and other problems can creep in.

To avoid this situation, the transition from architecture-driven engineering to model-based engineering needs to be as seamless and frictionless as possible. Moving from the architecture-driven engineering phase to the model-based engineering phase demands detailed design tools that understand information and models from system engineering tools.

If you can achieve this, no context is lost. You can still see and understand the context of the requirements and constraints of your work, even in the detailed design stages. If a change is made, you can instantly see the impact across the design. You also know what other teams need and can get involved, aiding in collaboration. This additional knowledge gives your systems architecture design the best chance of success. It also helps you complete your work more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

In Summary: Context is Key

When designing a systems architecture, it’s essential to take the entire system into account. Understanding the key traits of architecture-driven engineering helps engineers make informed decisions and results in a faster, more effective design process. To summarize:

  • Treat the system as a whole when designing the architecture. This provides visibility across different engineering disciplines and components.
  • When exploring potential designs, track your market or customer requirements to help you make informed decisions.
  • As you transition to the detailed design phase, maintain focus on the design context. You will better understand the impact of any changes across the entire architecture and give your project the best chance of success.

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Chad Jackson
Chad Jackson
Chief Analyst and CEO of Lifecycle Insights
Chad Jackson is the Chief Analyst and CEO of Lifecycle Insights. He leads the company’s research and thought leadership programs, attends and speaks at industry events, and reviews emerging technology solutions. Chad’s twenty-five-year career has focused on improving executives’ ability to reap value from technology-led engineering initiatives during the industry’s transition to smart, connected products.