Implementation, O & M, and Transition


Implementation—The realization of a system (or an application, execution of a plan, idea, model, design, specification, standard, algorithm, or policy) into an operational environment.

O&M (Operations and Maintenance)—When the system is fielded, it enters the operations phase. Preventive maintenance is a schedule of planned maintenance actions aimed at preventing breakdowns and failures before they occur and at preserving and enhancing equipment reliability by replacing worn components before they fail. When a system fails, corrective maintenance is performed.

Transition—The point in a system's life cycle when it moves from the development phase to the manufacturing/fielding/sustainment phase.

Keywords: corrective, implementation, maintenance, operations, preventive, transition

MITRE SE Roles and Expectations: MITRE systems engineers (SEs) are expected to take into account successful sustainment of their system during pre-acquisition and acquisition phases. They are expected to be able to develop transition strategies for delivering and deploying systems, including simultaneous system operation, cutover, and retirement/disposal of systems to be decommissioned. SEs develop technical requirements and strategies to enable and facilitate system operation, maintenance, and operator training, and evaluate those developed by others. MITRE SEs develop approaches to enable system modifications and technology insertion.


Although most of sustainment is typically not within MITRE’s primary systems engineering purview, activities during the concept development, design, and verification phases, where MITRE does have significant influence, can promote or inhibit successful operation and sustainment of fielded systems.


Although no underlying articles exist yet for this topic, topic-level best practices and lessons learned are presented below. When available, the articles in this topic will describe best practices and lessons learned for transitioning a system from its acquisition phase to the remainder of its life cycle.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

View transition as a process. Though it is common to think of the transition from development to fielding as a point in time, as described in this article’s definition, transition is actually a process that takes place over time. The transition process is a set of activities that encompasses (1) planning for transition, (2) implementation, and (3) O&M in a sequential, phased order. The transition process should not be deferred until after the product is developed and ready to be produced and fielded, or the likelihood of failure is greater. Begin planning the transition process early in the development phase to account for any uniqueness in manufacturing, fielding, or maintenance activities. Deciding how to insert technology improvements in the O&M phase, often necessary multiple times, needs to be addressed in the initial design and development of the system.

Start planning for the transition early in the product development phase, even before the initial design review. Figure 1 represents a Department of Defense perspective of a product’s life cycle and is fairly representative of any product development/manufacture/sustainment processes. As indicated in the figure, the transition strategy needs to begin as early as possible, even during the product planning/strategy sessions. Include manufacturing engineers and field-service engineers in the product planning phase to ensure that the development engineers understand how the product will be produced and maintained. Minor changes in the design, if done early on, can provide a significant benefit to the person who must build or maintain the product.

Figure 1. Transition Activities in Acquisition Life Cycle

Walk the manufacturing floor. Have the SEs tour the manufacturing or integration facility and understand how a product "flows" through the plant. Many times, simple modifications to the process can greatly improve the quality of the product being built. Talk to the personnel who work on the floor to understand what works well and what does not. The more you understand about the actual manufacturing and integration process, the smoother the transition will be.

Understand the customer's maintenance concept. In the commercial world, a field engineering force typically services all aspects of the system. The government sector uses "two-level" maintenance: "boxes" are typically swapped in the field (many times by the user) and boxes needing repair are sent back to a repair depot or contractor facility. Regardless of the method used, knowing the responsibilities of maintenance personnel and the tools at their disposal will help develop a product that is easier to maintain.

Have a flexible technology roadmap. Understand and have a plan for when, how, and why technology improvements should be inserted into the system after deployment. Understand technology readiness assessments and develop a roadmap that balances technology maturity, the ability to insert the technology into the system (e.g., from a manufacturing or retrofit perspective), and when it is operationally appropriate to make the technology upgrade.

References and Resources

  1. Defense Acquisition University, Systems Engineering, Defense Acquisition Guidebook, Chapter 4, accessed March 9, 2015.
  2. Defense Acquisition University, Life Cycle Logistics, Defense Acquisition Guidebook, Chapter 5, accessed March 9, 2015.


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