Jama Connect for Companion MBSE: The Chameleon

August 10, 2021 Cary Bryczek


Have you ever heard the saying that a systems engineer is the chief cat herder? Have you as systems engineer ever been branded as the person who asks “Why?” all the time? A systems engineer often perceived as the person that says, “Why do you need that? No, that won’t work. No, that is out of scope.” All systems engineers want to say “yes” more often. Systems engineering is a reductionist discipline so saying yes is often difficult. But perhaps systems engineers get a bad reputation because stakeholders cannot “see” the same things as the systems engineer and information is not getting communicated clearly. If your organization is trying to adopt a model-based approach to systems engineering (MBSE), then a SysML model might be too intimidating for most to interpret and consume which could result in even worse communication with the broader stakeholder development team. 

A transformative systems engineering practice lets the data do the talking to stakeholders. It enables its data to be easily consumed and understood. As a tool vendor I spend a lot of time talking to all kinds of customers that are in various stages of maturity. One common theme I hear from systems engineers is that they can’t get people to look at their data. They are always asked to provide a document or slide or walk them through the model. The systems engineer then ends up spending far more time working as a librarian and tech writer. 

If you aren’t already doing good SE then MBSE with a SysML tool might not be the answer. The SERC study shows an overwhelming measure of lack of value and adoption of MBSE (check my previous blog here). It is my belief that organizations should not be using their SysML tool to perform the functions of requirements management, management of verification and validation, or change and configuration management of this data. 

Jama Connect® for Companion MBSE is designed to make it easy for non-systems engineers to consume data and participate in a collaborative, systems engineering process. It provides familiar navigation and views of data along with an industrial-grade configuration management and a workflow engine at its heart. Actionable collaboration at the element level provides a thread of decision points and audit trail of who said what and changed what. It enables real-time collaboration, no waiting for publishing of a model file or meeting date for a design review. Actionable collaboration means comments on elements can be framed as questions, issues, or decision requests. Discussion for each comment is threaded and its status can be queried. Comments can optionally trigger notifications when @mentioning users or groups. Users don’t need to leave the element in the model they are working on and use an external email or collaboration tool get input from additional stakeholders since you can just add their email address to the comment. 

RELATED: Getting Started with Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)

When getting started with your system model, a Companion MBSE template can be used where systems engineers and stakeholders can begin entering data. The Companion MBSE model provides a starting point with pre-configured types to capture and segregate different types of requirements, architectures, behaviors, and V&V objects. The types can be tailored where you might add additional fields to capture various attribute information or even enable a workflow to display lifecycle state information. 

The Companion MBSE template also comes with a structure laid out to organize the data. The structure is easy to navigate by opening the nested hierarchy. The highest level of abstraction is at the top of the tree and subsystem/component level data is nested below. This specific data organizational approach is not only an aid to users who want to understand the breadth of an entire system but is also present to facilitate reuse strategies for parallel development, variants, or product lines. 

A Jama Connect model is like a chameleon. It can appear to users like a familiar document, or it can be browsed and consumed as just data to provide the best of both worlds. For those stakeholders who still need a document, the data can be easily annotated with textural information to capture relevant background information. The data can also be organized under section headings. This data driven approach makes it easy to segregate data from background information. Views of the information can easily be switched from a rich contextual view containing both background info, section headings, and data; to a view that just displays the data elements alone (i.e. requirement statements, block names…). These built-in views make it easy for any type of stakeholder to read and understand what they are looking at and saves the systems engineers lots of time doing that librarian/documentation work. 

Jama Connect does not limit modeling to just creation of elements but provides these mechanisms for textural and section headings to be applied to architecture, interfaces, behaviors, and V&V elements. Model documentation is captured right here and does not need to span to other tools. The rich text editor lets the user format text, add tables, bullets, insert images, or enter formulas. The built-in diagram tool is where model diagrams can be constructed. Users aren’t required to know a modeling language and can add descriptive to and annotate the lines between the elements in any way they choose.  

RELATED: MBSE Tool Maturity – Where does your organization stand?

For those that are used to capturing architectures in documents, it might seem attractive to use an issue tracker or wiki like Atlassian® Jira® and Confluence®. These tools are not model-based and offer only the most rudimentary of links. Connect lets you capture functions, blocks, behaviors, requirements, and individual elements in the Connect model. Each element can have a rich descriptive area and fields configured for commenting, relationships, and workflow. They can be viewed in list form, in the tree, or as documents. 

Jama Connect for Companion MBSE provides easy ways to associate relationships between different objects. Companion MBSE is pre-configured with a schema and naming syntax that govern which elements are allowed to be connected together and which type of trace link name us used when elements are connects. For instance a Need can be related to a Validation test and its relationship name is “validates.” A system requirement can be related to a system architecture block and its relationship name is “satisfies.” Jama Connect automatically chooses the correct relationship name for the user. Users do not need to know any syntax or language; they just associate one element with another and Jama Connect applies the pre-configured trace rule constraint to those elements.  

This data-driven approach using a combination of textural model elements and diagrams makes it easy for organizations to participate directly in MBSE activities; share systems engineering data with broader audiences; and report on progress. Discrete item types and link types make it easy to analyze and query the model. Teams using documents, wikis, or legacy tools often go through a manual process to relate all the data together which can be error prone, introduce inconsistent data, or when performed after the fact yield stale, inaccurate data. Connect lets you surface in real-time data and display it on the model dashboard. The model dashboard can be a central place for any stakeholder, technical or non-technical, to come away with an understanding of the current state of the systems engineering effort.  

Award-winning ease of use and built-in collaboration mechanisms combined with our approach to MBSE give both MBSE mature teams and teams new to MBSE the ability to deliver high value systems engineering. Systems engineers will find it easier to say “yes” and cat herding will be more of a delight than an act of hide and seek. 

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Getting Started with Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
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