Friday 12 February 2016

Modeling tools vs drawing tools

The goal of MBSE Training and Consulting is to make model-based systems engineering tool adoption easy. That does make it easy though. Occasionally, I get into discussions with people who have learnt about systems modeling but they’ve never experienced it. A person used to Visio for example may see SysML modeling tool as something very similar. As they step into SysML for the first time they make take the perspective that MBSE with SysML is about “I draw a use case diagram, and then I draw an activity or sequence diagram, and I can express this on this internal block diagram” and "look at the model that I created".

For sure, it's important to know what diagrams are and what they mean but is that a true reflection of model-based systems engineering? As product manager for Artisan in 2004-2007 I was closely involved in the creation of its SysML 1.0 profile (I'd used the tool at Xerox, Acterna/WWG and a subsidiary of Rolls Royce prior to that). For me, the thing I loved about the tool was the ability to have 30-150 engineers working on the same model at the same time. It was the shared repository of knowledge; the common data dictionary; the graphical equivalent of a project Wikipedia (long before Wikipedia was developed). After all, Systems Engineering is not a solo task by its nature and neither is modelling. While I can argue this, experience is very difficult to convey and best experienced ;-) Only once you have this, however, will you experience true model-based systems engineering. A model can be worked on at the same time by many engineers. Many teams may work on a model. A model may be part of a bigger model. A model is always consistent across its many views. A drawing tool does not allow this. It’s a key distinction as systems engineering is not an individual task; it's about people and teams. 

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