This article is required reading for anyone who needs to hire, wants to become, or is going to be working with an HSI expert. Understand what the job entails, the key skills required, and how it relates to the rest of the systems engineering effort.
Human Systems Integration (HSI)
HSI is basically systems engineering with additional consideration of the non-materiel aspects of the system lifecycle. This includes the domains of manpower and personnel planning, training, human factors engineering, human survivability, habitability, environment, safety, and occupational health. The goal of HSI is to optimize system performance and cost across the entire system lifecycle.
If you’re not already familiar with HSI, check out Human Systems Integration: The Basics, Is Human Systems Integration Different from Human Factors Engineering?, and The Value of HSI.
“HSI Practitioner” and “Human Systems Integrator” are the two most common titles for this role. “Practitioner” sounds broad and academic to my ears, so my personal preference is “Integrator”. Not only is this term accurate, it’s more likely to resonate with other systems engineers.
The human systems integrator1 coordinates the activities of domain experts such as human factors engineers, safety engineers, and training developers. Calling the role “Integrator” helps to make this relationship more clear.
The integrator’s job is to ensure the appropriate consideration of human-related concerns in all project technical activities through the application of systems engineering tools and practices. The integrator has a role in all of the phases of the engineering vee.
Functional allocation is a great example. As capabilities are being allocated to various components, the integrator ensures that the functions assigned to the humans are within human capabilities in the mission context. This may included analyzing the abilities of the expected personnel, the capacity of the billeted manpower, and the planned types of interfaces.
The integrator supports the HSI domains and the project at large throughout the design and development of the system. According to SAE6906, Standard Practice for Human Systems Integration, this includes:
- ensuring that HSI activities are planned and budgeted for
- supporting the execution of domain-specific tasks
- facilitating collaboration between and tradeoffs among the HSI domains
- optimizing the impact of the HSI domains on system performance, sustainability, and cost
- advocating for and representing each of the HSI domains from a total system perspective
- tracking HSI risks and opportunities throughout the project execution
Human systems integrators are part of the systems engineering team. Like any position, the number of integrators on a project depends on the size of the effort; the HSI team needs to be large enough to cover all major systems engineering meetings and reviews.
The lead integrator is typically a member of the senior systems engineering staff and is the project’s primary interface to the customer HSI team.
Training and background
Most human systems integrators have a human factors background, but that’s not a requirement. What is required is a broad understanding of the HSI domains as well as systems engineering.
Many integrators find that experience in human factors or one of the other HSI domains provides valuable depth of knowledge. On the other hand, a traditional systems engineer may have a better understanding of engineering processes and more credibility when advocating for HSI concerns.
Regardless, it is important to recognize that HSI uses the same techniques and approaches as systems engineering but also has unique, domain-driven demands. Because HSI is an essential part of DoD acquisition policy, it’s also valuable for the integrator to have a strong understanding of the acquisition system; this allows the integrator to understand and meet their customer’s regulatory needs.
Several HSI training programs exist including a certificate and master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, a certificate from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a course from UC San Diego. These are a great way to gain the knowledge required to transition from any technical field into HSI.
HSI ensures that the human is given full consideration during all phases of the engineering lifecycle. This requires that the HSI effort be an integrated part of the project’s system engineering team and led by a competent, experienced engineer.
Did I miss any essential job functions? What knowledge, skills, and abilities are essential in a human systems integrator? Do systems or human factors engineers make better integrators? Sound off in the comments!
- The only drawback is that it’s a mouthful to repeat often; thankfully that’s not much of an issue in day-to-day experience.