In order to take advantage of the opportunities for systems engineering in nontraditional markets we need several things. First and foremost we need a vision. This involves being able to see the opportunities themselves. We must be able to recognize where organizations – potential customers – are doing systems design and improvement activities.
This calls for a recognition of systems in the broadest sense of the definition. The INCOSE definition points out that, “A system is a construct or collection of different elements that together produce results not obtainable by the elements alone.” We must take this definition and apply it to our thinking about potential markets as broadly as we possibly can. Where we are accustomed to thinking of a system as the components that make up a military vehicle or aircraft, we need to become facile with our ability to see systems in a wide variety of other settings.
For example, any hospital delivers its healthcare services to patients and their families through the use of systems and families of systems. The process by which a patient is received into the emergency room, triaged into the priority of care, diagnosed and treated and passed on to other areas of the hospital is a system. Hospitals are constantly seeking to improve such systems and introduce best practices into them. In order to maximize the possibility of success for these improvement ventures the processes should be carefully engineered. The first step in positioning ourselves to help engineer these processes is to have a vision of systems engineering that recognizes this application of the discipline and others like it.
Once systems engineers gain the vision to see the application of their discipline in such nontraditional areas they are faced with the second major need in expanding their systems engineering practice. In order to get the opportunity to apply systems engineering knowledge and practices in nontraditional settings the systems engineer must be able to communicate to the potential customers the value of their contributions to the customers’ efforts.
This requires that we have the language with which to communicate in the nontraditional market space. This language will more than likely be unique to each separate market. The language around process improvement in the hospital setting will be different than the language used to describe even the same kinds of improvements in a financial enterprise process.
It is up to the systems engineer to study the potential markets, learn their system development and improvement needs and the languages around those systems and then communicate the value of systems engineering to those potential customers. That insight and communication is key to securing the opportunity to do business in those potential markets.
All this requires significant effort on the part of the systems engineer but can yield equally significant rewards for those who put forth the effort. With the vision to see new market opportunities and the knowledge and language to gain entry into those market segments, the systems engineer can open up a whole new set of business opportunities. This is indeed well worth the effort.
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