Systems integration employs a collection of interfaces, processes, and technical methods to ensure that the system performs its mission as required in the intended environment. The government has depended on the prime contractor in the past to manage these interfaces and deliver a complete system. Recently, the government has chosen to decompose large programs into smaller, more manageable segments to foster competition and innovation. With this strategy change, the government by default has the responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating tasks required to acquire the system segments to meet the overall mission objectives.
The Aerospace Corporation reviewed systems integration findings, recommendations, and lessons learned from past independent program reviews and other government sources. The following highlights the needs related to the government as the system integrator:
- Defined end-to-end integration function in the program office, with one government person responsible, reporting directly to the program manager
- Defined systems integration organization, separate but cooperating with the systems engineering office, with well-defined giver-receiver responsibilities, authorities, and accountabilities
- Defined scope of the systems integration office that includes consideration beyond the contracted segments (from piece parts to Congress)
Planning for systems integration needs to begin early in the acquisition process before the segment contracts are issued. Preparation includes: clearly understanding the intended operational use of the system; defining the system boundaries, interfaces, and stakeholders; defining end-to-end requirements and baseline; and developing a systems integration strategy and plan.
The systems integration staff needs to anticipate problems, develop backup plans, and proactively influence the future.
Systems Integration: The Path to Successful Program Execution by Raymond Bonesteele et al., TOR-2018-02374, The Aerospace Corporation.