Logo: University of Southern California

Center for Software Engineering Adds Systems to Its Portfolio

Highly successful Viterbi research unit widens focus, brings on new co-director, and looks forward to major Convocation in fall

July 18, 2006 —
Barry Boehm: Center's Founder will host October gathering
The USC Center for Software Engineering will complete a change to become the Center for Systems and Software Engineering at a plenary affiliates convocation scheduled for October 23-26 at the University Park campus.

The change reflects a basic shift in the practice and philosophy of creating software, according to Prof. Barry Boehm, the National Academy of Engineering member who has led CSE since he founded it in 1993, and who will officially welcome fellow NAE member Professor Stan Settles as co-director in October.

At the October Convocation, Boehm and Settles look forward to hosting an intensive discussion of the issues involved in improving the integration of systems and software engineering for future ultra-complex systems of systems. "This is a major challenge," said Settles. "The proven success of the CSE approach gives me great optimism that CSSE will create solid, useful, and even brilliant  approaches."

"CSE has been a bright light at the Viterbi School," said the School's dean, Yannis Yortsos. "I have every expectation that CSSE will be an even brighter one."

Boehm, spent many years as a software developer and systems analyst at Rand Corporation, as a research and development manager with TRW, and an office director at DARPA before moving to the Viterbi School's Department of Computer Science, where he holds the TRW chair in software engineering. He said that “from a USC software engineering point of view, the change reflects an already existing reality.”

“From the CSE’s beginning,” he continued, “we found that inadequate systems engineering was most often the major source of failure on software projects.” Boehm noted that  the late Prof. Eberhardt Rechtin, the originator of USC/VSoE’s highly successful Systems Architecting and Engineering program, was a founding CSE Principal “and a leader in helping us better integrate software and systems engineering.” The subsequent leaders of the SAE program, Profs. Elliot Axelband and Stan Settles, have continued to strengthen this integration, Boehm said.
Stan Settles: "A major challenge:" NAE member will co-direct CSSE

From a systems engineering point of view, the formation of the CSSE has provided an opportunity to bring together a wide range of USC systems engineering capability across the VSoE departments and other organizations such as the Information Sciences Institute, the Institute for Creative Technologies, the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, and the Marshall School of Business.  

The expanded set of CSSE Principals includes 7 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 4 Fellows of INCOSE, the leading Systems Engineering professional society, 9 IEEE Fellows, and numerous other professional society leaders.

The CSE provides a robust platform for the startup of the new CSSE.  It has major government research contracts with NSF, DoD, NASA, and FAA, along with support from over 30 industry and government affiliates who participate in evolving and steering CSE’s research at regular meetings.  The affiliates include all of the major aerospace companies; leading commercial corporations such as IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, and Sun; and leading nonprofits such as Aerospace Corp., JPL, the Software Engineering Institute, and the Systems and Software Consortium.

In the course of its history, CSE has supported research and implementation of numerous now-standard software development techniques and paradigms.  These include the spiral model of software and systems development, the discipline of software risk management; the stakeholder win-win model of software and system requirements determination and project management; and the COCOMO (COnstructive COst MOdel) family of models that allow reliable estimation of new software projects' cost, effort, and schedule.
In response to its affilates’ steering group recommendations, CSE students and Boehm have developed an initial model for estimating systems engineering costs called COSYSMO (COnstructive SYStems engineering MOdel). They are developing a further model for estimating systems of systems integration costs, along with Settles, holder of the IBM Chair in Engineering Management in the Viterbi School's Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

A notable group of participants from academia, industry and government is expected at the October Convocation, which will be opened by top USC leaders, including Dean Yortsos and Provost C.L. Max Nikias. It will also feature keynote speeches by such national leaders as Dr. William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering, and Mr. John Stenbit, recently Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, and DoD’s Chief Information Officer.

The current agenda for the Convocation is posted on the CSSE website at