Date of Award

Summer 2012

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Research Projects

Degree Name

Dual Degree in Master of Science & Master of Business Administration


Systems Engineering and Leadership Program

School or College

Seaver College of Science and Engineering


In many consumer-oriented technology companies the development process frequently begins with a preconceived architecture rather than a set of customer-defined purposes. The client in these cases is the company itself, although the goal is to reach a target customer base in the market. These systems are often solutions looking for a problem, and are particularly vulnerable to the infamous "error of the third kind": working on the wrong problem.

Project Bigfoot was initiated by Acme Technologies to define the requirements and develop a next generation thermal receipt printer for kiosks. This printer would replace an existing product with alleged quality issues, and was expected to open the doors to a strategic relationship with a market leading kiosk system integrator. In order to achieve these goals the new product would have to perform all the functions of the existing model, improve quality and increase the performance envelope, and include a specific feature licensed from the same target kiosk integrator - dual-sided printing capability.

A Systems Engineering Plan was produced to place the appropriate focus on requirements development and derivation. In an environment where a bias existed for an already defined solution waiting to be justified, the principles of Systems Engineering and Systems Management enabled the team to thoroughly examine the problem. The plan also included requirements management steps, risk definition and risk management.

The final set of product requirements, as defined by Product Management, resulted in an 18-month development schedule and 5.9 million dollar investment estimate. Market applications for a page size kiosk thermal receipt printer were expected to expand as product capabilities were improved and the use of unattended kiosks increased. However, the forecast for the product and the price points did not justify the expense to develop a new feature-rich best-in-class solution. Executive management quickly recognized this fact and suspended the program.

Sound Systems Engineering principles used in the requirements development process revealed a set of improvements for the existing product that would address the current market concerns - the right set of issues justifying a moderate product improvement effort. The wrong problem for the company to be working on was a best-in-class product with innovative new features. Although that was the desire of the executive management, the problem could not be solved in a financially defensible way.

AnnikaMatas_Systems_Presentation_2012.pdf (3688 kB)
Oral Presentation