The Power of Iterative Interviews in Modeling Existing Systems


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Increasingly, systems engineers are challenged to develop models of existing systems. This is critical in developing replacement systems for legacy products or processes (reverse engineering), building improved systems in situ (middle-out engineering) as well as for developing a comprehensive understanding of context systems which will contain the system of interest to the design project at hand.

Using a series of iterative interviews combining the SIPOC framework from Six Sigma with the layered approach to mastering complexity it is possible to rapidly develop a clear picture of systems in operation. The resulting model is developed with a strong ownership interest on the part of system stakeholders- an interest that obviates the need for “back-end” selling of proposed changes and modifications to the system owners. Improvements developed from models “owned” by the stakeholders have a high rate of acceptance among those stakeholders over changes introduced by experts who have “studied” the system and its needs.

These interviews can be conducted with a pace that generally exceeds the ability of the stakeholders to participate and vet the developing models. With the increasing need to understand the context, interface with legacy systems and improve rather than replace existing systems the opportunity to develop models and see them accepted quickly is a critical advantage.