Feature-based PLE in the Systems Engineering Mainstream
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Feature-based Product Line Engineering in the Mainstream of Systems Engineering

Greetings from Dr. Paul Clements:

For 20 years BigLever has been at the forefront of the Product Line Engineering (PLE) movement, pioneering and putting into practice the Featured-based PLE approach that has revolutionized the industry. Regular readers of our newsletter know of the many success stories from BigLever customers that validate this state-of-the-art Feature-based PLE approach and the game-changing improvements it brings about in terms of cost, time, and quality.  

As Feature-based PLE gains traction across industry sectors, we see its impact growing and expanding further into the mainstream. This is especially evident in the systems engineering community where Feature-based PLE is acknowledged as one of the foremost areas of innovation in the field today.

From that community has recently emerged a publication that I’d like to introduce you to — Feature-based Systems and Software Product Line Engineering: A Primer.
This 12-page overview — published by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) — defines Feature-based PLE; introduces its important concepts; explains the economic model behind the overwhelming savings it delivers; discusses organizational adoption; and provides sources for more information.
BigLever is pleased to be a contributor to the creation of the PLE primer, which was selected as “Product of the Year” by INCOSE. This publication is available to INCOSE members and non-members alike, for free download on the INCOSE store. 

>> Download the INCOSE PLE Primer

INCOSE is spearheading the upcoming ISO standard 26580 on Feature-based PLE. The PLE Primer is intended to serve as an introductory companion to that standard.

>> Learn more about the ISO Feature-based PLE standard.

INCOSE: Putting PLE squarely in the systems engineering mainstream

INCOSE is a not-for-profit membership organization founded to develop and disseminate the interdisciplinary principles and practices that enable the realization of successful systems.
INCOSE comprises more than 17,000 members, 70 chapters, and some 45 working groups. One of those working groups is the Product Line Engineering International Working Group (PLE IWG). Its mission is to promote PLE best practices and help the community acquire PLE know-how. (Come to think of it, that’s what BigLever does as well.) 

The PLE IWG holds face-to-face meetings twice a year in conjunction with INCOSE’s flagship events and meets by teleconference every few months. Open to all INCOSE members, its membership comprises people from many different sectors, all actually practicing PLE — without a doubt, a group that readers of this newsletter should be getting to know, to hear their lessons learned, best practices, and their stories of victories and, yes, failures too, as they roll out PLE in their diverse organizations.

The working group is evidence of the importance INCOSE places on PLE. As market demand for product sophistication and diversity continues to grow, companies face new levels of systems engineering complexity. It is not unusual for engineering teams to spend as much as two-thirds of their time dealing with the mundane tasks of managing the mounting complexity of product variation. Feature-based PLE addresses product complexity by dramatically simplifying the creation, delivery, maintenance, and evolution of a product line portfolio and, through automation, doing away with most of that mundane, repetitive work.

This fact is not lost on INCOSE. According to Dr. Gina Guillaume-Joseph, INCOSE’s Assistant Director for their Standards Initiatives:
“Product Line Engineering has become a critical technology that will have broad impact across the systems engineering field.”
Of course, BigLever is not just watching all this from the sidelines; we are intimately involved.

For example, our CEO, Dr. Charles Krueger, was selected by INCOSE to lead the development of the new ISO Feature-based PLE standard. He is playing an instrumental role in bringing together experts from across the globe to develop a disciplined, structured set of standards that can be applied to help engineering organizations implement the most efficient and effective PLE approach. And as the Work Product Group Chair for the PLE (IWG), our VP of Engineering, Dr. Drew Stovall, managed the creation of the new PLE Primer.

All of this convinces me that Feature-based PLE is now squarely in the mainstream of systems engineering. It’s no longer a niche engineering practice — or just for those out on the leading edge. Rather, it is recognized as a critical and indispensable part of system building for all companies that create complex product lines.

We invite you to download your free copy of the INCOSE PLE Primer — and we welcome your feedback.
Best regards,
Dr. Paul Clements
BigLever Software Vice President of Customer Success

About this newsletter

As BigLever Software's Vice President of Customer Success, Dr. Paul Clements helps BigLever customers understand and apply the latest Product Line Engineering (PLE) approaches, create optimized deployment plans, and establish successful, ongoing PLE practices.

In this "From the PLE Frontline" newsletter issue, Dr. Clements shares his insights, observations, and important lessons learned from interactions and collaboration with customers.

We appreciate your interest and welcome your feedback regarding your organization's PLE challenges and issues.

>> See previous BigLever Newsletters

About Feature-based PLE

Feature-based PLE is the engineering of a product line using shared assets, a managed set of features, and an automated means of production. Organizations utilizing Feature-based PLE adopt a factory approach to building their product line.

A PLE Factory is much like a typical manufacturing factory except that it operates on digital assets rather than physical parts. In a PLE Factory, the configurator uses a Bill-of-Features to configure the shared assets, which are maintained as supersets with variation points, into product asset instances.
Feature-based PLE Factory
The Feature-based PLE Factory eliminates all of the duplication in artifacts and replication of work that is common in product-centric engineering approaches. In the world of PLE, a product line is a single entity, rather than a multitude of products — resulting in the most efficient and cost-effective engineering effort possible. 

PLE insight and informational resources

As a pioneer in the PLE field, BigLever has consistently brought valuable insight and information to the systems and software engineering community regarding PLE concepts and tools, leading-edge PLE approaches, and the extraordinary benefits that PLE delivers.

Our website provides access to the industry's most comprehensive set of informational PLE resources: 

>> Videos & overviews
>> Customer case studies
>> White papers & publications
>> Articles in the press

About BigLever

BigLever Software™ is the long-standing leader in the Product Line Engineering field. BigLever’s holistic onePLE™ solution delivers the leading-edge technology, proven methodology, business strategy and organizational change expertise needed to efficiently transition to and operate a game-changing PLE practice.

The company’s state-of-the-art PLE methods and tools provide a unified, automated approach for feature-based variant management. This approach extends across the full lifecycle, including engineering and operations disciplines; software, electrical, and mechanical domains; and tool ecosystem.

Some of the world’s largest forward-thinking organizations across a spectrum of industries are leveraging BigLever’s PLE solution to achieve competitive advantage through order-of-magnitude improvements in productivity, time-to-market, portfolio scalability, and product quality. For more information, visit

Contact BigLever: 
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