Votech News

Mission Capability Frameworks

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mission Capability Frameworks – why build them?

Where a clear, believable, palpable purpose or mission exists for the organization, where its reason for existence and what it is trying to achieve is clear, a multitude of business virtues follow almost automatically. Decision-making can be made easier (at all levels) by being tested against whether or not they advance or inhibit the organization’s purpose. In particular, decision-making around procurement of technology solutions to support or upgrade of operational capability can be linked back to the declared purpose of the organisation.

By analysing the organisational missions, the tasks that are conducted in pursuit of those missions, and operational capabilities needed to execute these tasks, a coherent framework can be developed. Coherence is delivered by assuring that there is explicit and credible tracing between the various components of the framework. The overall approach to defining capabilities is clearly top-down, and through their trace back to missions are an enduring statement of user needs and user requirements, independent of solutions.

As an example, decomposition of high level goals of a policing organisation could give:  

A goal (high level):                              to perceive that the law is being complied with

A task (one aspect):                            to covertly conduct compliance monitoring

A capability (one aspect):                   to be able to prevent unauthorised listening of police radios

Solution (one option):                         encryption of radio voice transmissions

By way of contrast to this mission-driven approach, technology push is a part of a many business strategies employed by suppliers of technology solutions. A technology push implies that a new solution is pushed through R&D, production and sales functions onto the market without proper consideration of whether or not it satisfies a user need. Organisations are frequently required to adapt their operations to suit the delivered system behaviours, which have been conceived without reference to the missions of a particular group.

One approach to organising a framework of operational capabilities for an organisation is to analyse missions by way of a goal-based hierarchy. Using goals as the central concept acknowledges the theoretical basis that states human behaviour is characterized as a perceptually driven system, responding to discrepancies between perceived states of the external world and goal states. The human system reacts to these discrepancies by trying to reduce them. Goals are assigned to specific operators, and goals have associated variables. Operators use these variables to detect the discrepancies of state and undertake tasks to control them.

A solution-free capability framework offers several benefits: -

  • It allows new, possibly disruptive solutions and/ or alternative mature technologies to be tested for effectiveness, impact and value against organisational needs

  • It allows new missions to be inserted and/or adjusted, so that organisational needs and capabilities can be assessed and managed in a structured way

  • It provides a fully traceable step-off point to the analysis of specific capabilities (e.g. communications)  leading to the development of system specifications and subsequent procurement, so that procurement is focused on serving validated needs.

Hierarchical Goal Analysis

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Hierarchical Goal Analysis – structure for an operational and capability framework.

Different approaches have emerged for the analysis of complex cognitive systems to identify requirements for the design of workspaces, displays and controls, decision support systems, and/or computer supported cooperative work. These socio-technical systems demand a comprehensive systems approach to analyse technical issues, and policy issues, and behaviour of the users. Hierarchical Goal Analysis (HGA) offers a relevant structural basis for building an operational framework which can serve several purposes.

HGA is based on the theory which posits that humans operate as perceptually driven, goal referenced, feedback systems. All human behaviours are responses to errors or differences that are perceived between current states of the world and goal states.

Rather than tasks and functions, HGA uses goals, defined as desired states for variables that are monitored and controlled by operators in a system, as the primary units of analysis. HGA tends to view the system from the operators’ perspective. HGA asks what operators need to monitor, control, and achieve. For HGA, operators can be human or automated systems.

HGA is not the only approach to analyse goals, however other, more well-known goal-based approaches are, in general, performed for a specific operator, class of operators, or team of operators, so the identification and decomposition of goals are based on the roles and responsibilities that have been pre-assigned to the operator(s). If an operator’s role is modified, goals may need to be added and/or removed from the hierarchy.

In contrast, an HGA is performed for a system with an unspecified number of operators belonging to different classes and/or teams. It identifies and decomposes all goals before any goal is assigned to any operator. Even if there are changes to the role(s) assigned to the operator(s), the goal hierarchy itself does not need to be revised.

The process followed in an HGA seems to offer the flexibility required to support the design of envisioned worlds, where the number, types, and roles of operators may be undecided or subject to change. In terms of accommodating changes, new operator positions can be created and new automated processes can be introduced to support future operations. The flexibility to consider re-allocation of roles between human operators and/or automation by re-using and adapting significant portions of the original analysis is a powerful facet of HGA.

Highlights - SETE 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

The conference of the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) and the Southern Cross Chapter of the International Test and Evaluation Association (ITEA), presenting as the 2015 Systems Engineering and Test and Evaluation (SETE 2015), was held in Canberra over three days in late April.

 With an increasing interest in the application of model-based systems engineering, and in accord with the thrust supporting this approach laid out in the Vision 25 document from INCOSE, there were many sessions and streams addressing this general topic.

 Also gaining significance within the systems engineering community is the importance of systems thinking and associated methods to “prepare the ground” for the application of mainstream systems engineering. Two, half-day tutorial sessions reflected this significance, both dealing with the challenges of solving the right problem.

 The first, “Systems Thinking for Systems Engineers”, was presented by Dr Sondoss ElSawah from UNSW Canberra. Having defined “wicked” problems as prime targets for systems thinking, being problems involving conflicts and ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, Dr ElSawah moved on to define the fusion of thinking and systems as: 

Reflective/learning/multi-level action to make use of knowledge (different types, disciplines and dimensions) (THINKING)


systems components, context, relationships, purpose and boundary (SYSTEMS)

Several tools to apply systems thinking were then explored, including cognitive mapping (an individual perspective), concept mapping (a collective perspective) and causal loop diagrams.

 The second tutorial involved exploration of the “Soft Systems Methodology – Systems Thinking Aid to Requirements Engineering”, presented by Dr Alan McLucas from UNSW Canberra. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), very much allied to systems thinking and based on the original work of Checkland (1981), is needed because “regardless of how strongly we might believe it and are committed to it, we cannot assume that our personal worldview is the only one that matters, and hence is to be the only basis for designing a system.” On a broader level, SSM:

 Focuses on problematic real-world situations calling for action which will produce improvements to the current situation

 Formulates models of purposeful activity (PAMs) which are possible alternate strategies to produce improvements in the current situation

 Creates structured debate about desirable and culturally feasible change

 Dr McLucas walked through the various steps of SSM including the development rich pictures and purposeful activity modeling.

Model Based System Engineering in play

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In the statement of work for the Radio Replacement Project for the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) in the state of Victoria (Australia), a multi-level maintenance regime for the new capability was described, which included:

  • At field level, supported by radio terminal Built In Test and operational and technical staff

  • At workshop or depot level, supported by test equipment

  • At supplier level, supported by the equipment manufacturer

At workshop or depot level, a screening test would be used when:

  • A terminal undergoes the pre-fire season check where they are not used regularly, e.g., cache radios

  • A terminal has been returned from the field, where testing is used to confirm that a fault exists prior to either returning a terminal to the manufacturer for repair, or returning to the field

VoTech took the above high level needs to develop a scope of testing suitable for a Radio Screening Test System (RSTS). A set of system requirements were then developed, and the solution was engineered using the model-based system engineering approach available in CORE. The solution primarily involved use of the Aeroflex RF Test Set which was already deployed by DELWP, and bespoke software to undertake test management and control functions of the Aeroflex, as well as the Terminal Under Test and associated test support items.

Functional flows were modelled in CORE, then validated in the SIM feature. An animation of the SIM is depicted below.




Vision 25

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In June 2014, the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) released its “Vision 25”, setting out a comprehensive view for systems engineering in 2025. It sees systems engineering being shaped by the global environment, human and societal needs, policy and business challenges, as well as the technologies that underlie systems. Vision 25 can be accessed here.

One imperative supporting the vision is the advancement of tools and methods to address increasing complexity. The Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) paradigm is seen to become the “norm” for systems engineering execution, with specific focus placed on integrated modeling environments. These systems models go “beyond the boxes”, incorporating geometric, production and operational views. Integrated models reduce inconsistencies, enable automation and support early and continual verification by analysis.

VoTech is adopting the MBSE approach through take up of the capability available from Vitech’s CORE software. Initial training and familiarisation of CORE is scheduled for late 2014, with a view to implementation from 2015.