June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Continuing Professional Development
12.1178.1 - 12.1178.11
Preparing for next-generation systems
The paper presents outcomes from a top-down analysis of changes in the business environment and what needs to be done to extend and enhance competitiveness through professional workforce development. The work was done by an industry consortium with academic partners. The companies are system integrators at the top of the supply chain. However, their business structure has changed substantially in the past decade. A substantial amount of work that was once done in-house is now outsourced so they have to deal with a huge range of suppliers and commodity components to assemble ‘systems of systems’. Training programs for technology executives have been used to elucidate the features of complex systems that would benefit from cooperative training and where no provision currently exists. The outcomes include improved characterization of requirements and identification of further educational development that can be undertaken both inside companies and in university graduate programs.
Companies engaged in the design, production and field-support of complex systems are experiencing a broad and fundamental change in how they do business. Over the past 20 years, the systems they produce have grown rapidly in scale and complexity. The change has been driven by powerful computing and communications networks that deliver vastly more functionality at lower cost and higher reliability. As examples, consider: flying drone aircraft on the other side of the world, an automated assembly line or load management in a communications or distribution network. The resulting systems have capabilities many orders of magnitude greater than even two decades ago. To deliver and sustain such systems, the large monolithic, vertically integrated organizations of the 1970s have largely been restructured and re-engineered into highly focused, tightly interlinked units in a global supply network.
There are worrying implications about how to organize this sprawling combination of organizations often located in many countries. There are few precedents to show how to manage the combination of complexity, rate of change and diversity of functional components. Solutions are invariably an ad hoc combination of technical and business methods. As a result, the expertise may largely be classed as ‘tribal knowledge’. It is a pragmatic approach that works tolerably as long as there are no rapid changes. However, many systems companies now face a major demographic risk as a large proportion of their senior engineers retire in the next few years. Concern has been widely expressed throughout the high-tech sector 1,2. A training solution to prepare the next generation of technical managers has been implemented 3, 4 by an industry-based consortium that is deeply involved in designing, producing and sustaining complex systems.
In executing this training program, it has become evident that the challenge is much broader than simply preparing the next generation of technology leaders. The purpose of this paper is to take the analysis to the next stage and examine the real-world features of
Robertson, J., & Tidwell, J. (2007, June), Preparing For Next Generation Systems Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/1794
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