For even the small projects, systems engineering might just have a place

Published 03/11/18 by Austin Garrett, Systems Engineer and Software Developer

After Josh reached out to me about this awesome idea about creating the worlds best cafe website, I knew I had to jump aboard. There are a few reasons I decided to join. First off, I loved the idea of doing a project to give back to the community in a way that directly ties to my education. Secondly, I have been wanting to do a website development project and this was the perfect push to get me to finally do it. Lastly, this project will give me a perfect way to apply what I have learned from my Master’s courses in systems engineering in a completely new environment. Realizing that this was an amazing opportunity I accepted the invitation to work as a software developer and systems engineer.

To be clear, the function of a systems engineer is to “guide the engineering of complex systems”.1 Although this is a “micro-scale” project and is not very “complex”, I still wanted to attempt to apply as many systems engineering concepts as I could throughout the life of the project. I came to the conclusion that even though this is not a complex project, the goal of the systems engineer is to guide the project smoothly and create solid foundations for development and beyond. With this in mind, I realized that I can apply a mixture of main systems engineering concepts, software engineering concepts, as well as project management tools to the project.

From a traditional systems engineering view, the current state of the project is in the middle of the concept development stage of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). In order to complete the concept development stage, the project has to: identify the need for the project, fully define the requirements to meet that need, and define an architecture that meets the requirements. Although we have completed a good amount in this stage, the project has a good way to go before fully completing the concept development stage.

As a part of the concept development stage, I created a simplified Systems Engineering Management Plan (SEMP) that I called a Vision Document. The Vision Document clearly defines the purpose of the project, the stakeholders and their needs, non-functional requirements, and high-level features and functionality. This document will be used for the foundation (the building blocks if you will) and clearly defines the path of the project.

The next step for me as a Systems Engineer will be to fully define the requirements and have completed functional (use-cases) and non-functional requirements document as well as define the software architecture for the website. However, the team needs to clearly gather all the necessary research and information to fully define the functional requirements. Looking forward to partaking in some UX work and seeing the results from Josh and Zoey!


  1. Kossiakoff, A., Sweet, W.N., Seymour, S., and Biemer, S.M. (2011). Systems engineering principles and practice (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.