[System Engineering] #6. System Engineer

Hello! This is Danappa, a system engineer.

In this post, we will explore who a systems engineer is.

The definition of a systems engineer is well explained on the website of the Korea Society of Systems Engineering (KCOSE).

“A systems engineer is a person or role who uses and supports systems engineering, a multidisciplinary approach. Specifically, it is responsible for identifying customer needs and converting them into specifications that the system development team can implement.

Mainly in the software engineering field, people who are responsible for managing and maintaining servers or hardware are sometimes called system engineers. However, in the field of systems engineering, to build a successful system, we support the entire life cycle of the system, from concept design to production, deployment, use, and disposal. Systems engineers must analyze systems, write specifications, design and verify functions, interfaces, performance and physical characteristics to meet stakeholder needs.

Systems engineers ensure that each element of the system fits together to achieve the overall goals and ultimately meet the needs of all stakeholders, including customers who will purchase or use the system.”

Based on this definition, let’s explain the role of a systems engineer in more detail.


  1. Perspective of the entire system: Systems engineers do not just consider software or hardware. Instead, look at the entire system and think about how all the parts work together. For example, if you think of a car, it has various parts such as the engine, electronic system, and body. Systems engineers consider how all of these parts work together.
  2. Life Cycle Management: Systems engineers manage the entire life cycle of a system, from concept design through development, use, and finally disposal. This refers to the entire process from which a system is first conceived of as an idea to a real-world product.
  3. Meeting Stakeholder Requirements: Systems engineers strive to meet the requirements of all stakeholders involved in the project. This may include legal and technical requirements as well as customer expectations.
  4. Position within the organization: Systems engineers occupy an important position within the organization. As shown in the figure below, systems engineers report directly to management and work closely with other development departments. Their role is to act as a critical bridge to the success of the project.
  5. Role as an Architect: But systems engineers should not be mediators between project management and development departments. A systems engineer can be likened to the ‘architect’ of a project. Just as a building architect is responsible for the design of the entire building, a systems engineer is responsible for the design and integration of the entire system.
  6. Decision Power and Budget: Systems engineers have the authority to make important decisions. And according to INCOSE, it is recommended that 20% to 30% of the project budget should be allocated to systems engineering. This shows that systems engineering is a critical part of the project’s success.

As can be seen from the above explanation, systems engineers do not simply handle technical aspects, but are in a strategic position to play an important role for the overall success of a project.

This figure roughly represents the relationship between the system engineer team and related departments.
Organizational Relationship between system engineering team and related department


However, in most businesses, there are the following difficulties:

  1. Lack of Systems Engineering: Many projects lack the Systems Engineering organizational unit shown in the figure above. Because of this, most of the work is handled by overall project management and individual development departments. However, these departments are often focused on administrative tasks, making it difficult to get a whole-system view.
  2. Lack of whole system view: Development departments often focus on tasks related to their own academic disciplines, which makes it difficult to have a comprehensive view of the whole system. As a result, a holistic overview of complex systems may be missing.
  3. Conflicts between disciplines: In companies where certain academic disciplines are dominant, conflicts and misunderstandings with other disciplines may occur when performing systems engineering work. This highlights the need for a neutral and integrated approach to systems engineering.
  4. Limitations of the divide and conquer strategy: When each development department only solves problems in its individual sector, it can be difficult to find the optimal solution for the entire system. This shows that the role of systems engineering is to focus on the overall problem and ensure that optimal partial solutions are integrated into the overall solution.

To successfully integrate systems engineering into the project structure, support from all departments and especially management is essential. Organizational change and improvement in project culture are needed, and this must be achieved through collaboration between management and development.


Based on my experience working as a system engineer at an automotive electronics company, the role of a system engineer includes functional safety, cyber security response, and in some cases, the role of a project manager in addition to the previously mentioned roles.

As mentioned in the previous posting, the main tasks of system engineers during the system design process include writing SR (Sourcing Requirement), System Requirement Specification, System Architecture, and System Design Specification. do. When writing these documents, the requirements of functional safety (ISO26262) Part 4 (e.g., Safety Analysis such as System level FMEA, FTA, DFA, FSR, TSR, TSC, Safety Mechanism, etc.) and cyber security requirements (e.g., as necessary) TARA, Security Concept creation, etc.) should be considered.

In most cases, a systems engineer will perform all or a significant portion of the role of a project manager. This is due to the lack of sufficient resources for project managers, while requiring work to be performed according to quality-assured processes (i.e. systems engineering) through standards such as A-SPICE, ISO-26262, ISO/SAE-21434, etc. no see. Because of this, systems engineers often take on the role of project managers.

Despite the growing importance of systems engineering in the electronics industry, there are several reasons why there is a lack of experienced professionals. First, the importance of systems engineering in the automotive industry has only recently begun to be recognized. Second, it is rare to move from industries such as aviation, defense, nuclear power, and railways to the automobile industry. This makes recruiting experienced systems engineers difficult.

Because most companies in the electronics industry have not yet reached a mature level in systems engineering, it is difficult to find experienced systems engineers within the company. Because of this situation, it is not easy to build a career as a system engineer in the domestic electronics industry.

Nonetheless, if you study systems engineering and gain diverse experience, you have the opportunity to earn high salaries and industry recognition in the future. Systems engineering is an attractive field for people who are interested in a variety of disciplines and who want to make their own design decisions and work on their own.

In the next post, we will discuss Model Based System Engineering (MBSE).


[System Engineering] #1. INTRODUCTION

[System Engineering] #2. Definition of System

[System Engineering] #3. Systems Thinking 1

[System Engineering] #4. Systems Thinking 2 – Principles, Laws, Heuristics and Pattern

[System Engineering] #5. System engineering

[System Engineering] #7. MBSE (Model Based System Engineering) – 1

[System Engineering] #8. MBSE (Model Based System Engineering) – 2

[System Engineering] #9. MBSE (Model Based System Engineering) – 3

[System Engineering] #10. SysML (System Modeling Language)

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