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Digital Engineering Ecosystem

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Written by Darryl L. Howell (email:
Edited by John H. Coleman Ph.D. (Email:
Submitted December 7, 2018
Last Updated on December 7, 2018

Concise Definition

A digital engineering ecosystem includes enterprises' interconnected digital environments, stakeholder-networks, and semantic data that allows the exchange of digital artifacts from an authoritative source of truth to serve the stakeholder communities' interests [1].


The digital engineering ecosystem is a collaborative system of systems that uses digital environments1 [2] to enable pre-agreed rules for transacting the exchange of digital artifacts from an authoritative source of truth2 within a stakeholder-network [3]. It is a collaborative system that enforces the protection of intellectual property, cybersecurity, and security classification of participants’ digital artifacts [4]. With pre-agreed rules and fluidity of transactions, it enables an agile, rapid, and flexible development cycle to field complex systems using the digital engineering3 approach [5]. It has capabilities that span the continuum from concept through disposal [6]. The digital engineering ecosystem allows multi-disciplinary stakeholders to operate on interconnected and domain-specific data through the use of information technology (IT) infrastructure, development tools, and a set of model-based engineering (MBE)4 methods and processes in developing and deploying the products and/or services. The digital engineering ecosystem includes a robust an information technology (IT) infrastructure, digital environment, and a set of methods, processes and tools to support the digital engineering goals [4].



As the Department of Defense (DoD) shifts to a digital engineering approach, it needs authoritative sources of digital artifacts for systems. These systems’ digital artifacts must span both a network of disciplines and the continuum across lifecycle activities from concept through disposal [6]. In order to meet new threats, maintain overmatch, and leverage technology advancements, DoD requires a dynamic digital ecosystem [4]. The need resulted in Science and Technology (S&T) investments across DoD military services and agencies to develop digital ecosystems dedicated to performing engineering operations. This led to the term digital engineering ecosystems. Their digital engineering ecosystem should support the Digital Engineering Strategy’s goal of “establish[ing] a supporting infrastructure and environments to perform activities, collaborate, and communicate across stakeholders [4].” Thus, DoD aims to evolve collaborative digital engineering ecosystems. Their digital engineering ecosystems should grant access to its complex network of stakeholders involved in all aspects of the engineering military systems. The ideal digital engineering ecosystem allows cyber-protected collaboration between government, industry, and academia.

The Components

With a Digital engineering ecosystem, stakeholders have the ability to work collaboratively within and through a digital environment using shared knowledge and resources across the lifecycle. Containerized engineering communities can base heterogeneous digital engineering ecosystems around industries, technology platforms, or knowledge domains to reduce complexity [7]. The engineering community can use its authoritative source of truth to develop, manage, and communicate information about systems from concept through disposal [4]. The core components of the digital engineering ecosystem are as follows:

The Value Exchange

The engineering community will use digital artifacts produced within, or generated from, the digital engineering ecosystem to produce more innovative ideas. The interchange of digital artifacts provide data for alternative views to visualize, communicate, and deliver data, information, and knowledge to stakeholders [8]. In the digital engineering ecosystem, the primary form of value exchanges are the novel ideas and innovations captured in digital artifacts [9]. That said, the marketplace in related business ecosystems might use monetary value to influence the engineering ecosystem’s value exchange; nevertheless, money is not its primary value. The engineering community appraises the value of a digital artifact by its ability to generate innovations5. To aid the value exchange, the digital environment serves as the means to exchange digital artifacts; while, the authoritative source of truth ensures that valid digital artifacts originate from legitimate sources [4].

Digital Environment

The digital environment is the technological infrastructure that supports the digital engineering ecosystem. There is a variety of digital environments. The digital environment is as set of interconnected information, communication and software technologies. [2]. Again, it is unique set of technologies designed to meet the needs of the community and its stakeholders. These may include one or more of the following: 1) integrated digital environment that integrates database systems and information content to increase sharing [10]. 2) Immersive digital environments with virtual and augmented reality technology that enables interactions between participants [11]. Alternatively, 3) integrated development environments that include a suite of software tools to complete a project or operation [12].


The digital engineering ecosystem’s stakeholder network includes any entity that has an interest in exchanging digital artifacts related to specific project, program, technical platform, knowledge domain, or industry. It is a closed sharing model for its social network. In this closed sharing model, the community selects the stakeholders. There are several methods for selection to include sponsorship, criteria based, or permissions. The sponsorship closed sharing model allows any current member in good standing to recommend or give the new member access. The criteria based membership involves the new member meeting some standard, criteria, or test before the system gives them access. Finally, the permission base, involves one or more gatekeepers that decide how and if a new member is granted permission to participate. Another aspect of the closed social network model is that parties in a transaction choose to accept information from each other [13]. As such, not all communications and transactions are open to all participants. There is an invitation and reply to engage in any transaction.

Rule-Based Transactions

The digital engineering ecosystem has some underlying rules-based or expert system technology based that defines, initializes, constrains, and instructs the transactions and interchanges of digital artifacts between the stakeholders [14]. It may use emergent rules based on the behavior of humans using the system. Alternatively, it may use fixed rules established by the system developer. Alternatively, it may be a combination of both. With the advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Data Science, and High Performance Computing (HPC), emergent rules are the emerging practice [15].

Model-Based Engineering (MBE) Methods

The Model-based engineering methods includes any type of engineering digital artifacts used to conceive, design, develop, and build an engineered system or product. The methods includes techniques, processes, and tools to develop and analyze the engineering artifacts. The models may be digital artifacts that include 2-dimensional diagrams, 3-dimensional geometrics, or mathematical and physics-based models. The community for a given digital engineering ecosystem will determine the specific types of tools, techniques, and processes it needs to create, offer, request, and exchange digital artifacts for its platform or domain. As previously stated, the digital engineering ecosystems are heterogeneous and thus unique to the needs of its community.

Common usage

  • “Applying these tools and methods, we are shifting toward a dynamic digital engineering ecosystem [4].”
  • “The Department of Defense is shifting to a digital engineering ecosystem from initial research and development all the way to maintenance and eventually retirement; the DOD is working with traditional modeling and simulation while leveraging high-performance computing and software networking [16].”
  • “This Digital Engineering Ecosystem improves a user’s ability to visualize, work, develop, share and use additional model features through improved digital artifact portability [8].”


Similar concepts and definitions

Digital Business Ecosystems, as stated by McKinsey & Company and Gartner, the topic is as follows:

  • “[Digital] ecosystems will comprise diverse players that provide digitally accessed, multi-industry solutions. The relationship among these participants will be commercial and contractual, and the contracts (whether written, digital, or both) will formally regulate the payments or other considerations trading hands, the services provided, and the rules governing the provision of and access to ecosystem data [23]. “There are critical mechanisms for capitalizing on business ecosystems opportunities and responding to threats, including APIs, digital platforms, events and programmable economy (including blockchain) [24].”

Integrated Digital Environment, as stated by Herbert F. Schantz, the topic is as follows:

  • The Integrated Digital Environment is “…a dynamic data environment where all users draw from a common virtual database, which contains data supplied and maintained by an unlimited number of providers. This “integrated digital environment” is supported by a shared information environment providing immediate access to the digital data [10].”

Immersive Digital Environment, as stated by Segen’s Medical Dictionary, the topic is as follows:

  • An artificial, interactive, computer-created scene or 'world' within which a user can immerse themselves. Examples Computer games (from simple arcade games to massively multiplayer online games), training (e.g., flight and driving simulators), entertainment environments, art installations [11].”

Digital Environment, as stated on Wikipedia, the topic is as follows:

  • A digital environment is an integrated communications environment where electronic, or “digital”, devices are the tools which communicate and manage the content and activities within it. The concept is based on digital electronics systems which are integrated and implemented for a global community. A major component of a digital environment generally includes a comprehensive presence within the Internet, including: websites, cloud servers, search engines, social media outlets, mobile apps, audio and video, and other web-based resources [2].”

Integrated Development Environment, as stated by Konsynkis, et. al., the topic is as follows:

  • Integrated Development Environments (IDE) are presented as a unified set of information system development concepts, techniques, and computer-aided tools. An IDE consists of both a complete and unified development methodology and set of computer aids that support use of the methodology [12].”


  1. Authoritative source of truth serves as the central reference point for models and data across the lifecycle [4]
  2. Digital Artifacts produced within, or generated from, the digital engineering ecosystem [5].”
  3. Digital Engineering is ‘‘an integrated digital approach that uses authoritative sources of systems’ data and models as a continuum across disciplines to support lifecycle activities from concept through disposal [1].”
  4. Innovation is the “… adoption or modification of new ideas germane to organizational needs, the promotion of these ideas, and the practical implementation of these ideas [25].”
  5. Model-based Engineering “uses these models rather than documents as the data source for all engineering activities throughout the product life cycle [26]


[1] Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Engineering), “Digital Engineering Ecosystem,” DAU Glossary, 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[2] Wikipedia, “Digital Environment,” Wikipedia Organization, 14 September 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 28 November 2018].

[3] P. Zimmerman, “ “Models, Simulations, and Digital Engineering in Systems Engineering Restructure (Defense Acquisition University CLE011)”,,” 26 October 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 27 November 2018].

[4] Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering,, “Digital Engineering Strategy,,” June 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 27 November 2018]. [5] Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Engineering) [ODASD (SE), “Digital Engineering Artifacts,,” Defense Acquisition University (DAU), , 2017. [Online]. Available: . [Accessed 27 November 2018].

[6] Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Engineering) [ODASD (SE),, “Digital Engineering,,” Defense Acquisition University (DAU),, 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[7] C. Sharbaugh, “USAF Digital Engineering Ecosystem: AFMC/EN and Center for Operational Analysis Sponsored Assessment,” in Office of Secretary Defense (OSD) Digital Engineering Working Group (DEWG) Meeting on November 2018, Alexandria, VA, 2018. [8] Aerospace Industries Association, “Critical MBE Themes That Enable Collaborative Government-Industry Digital Engineering Throughout the DOD Acquisitions Lifecycle,” AIA, August 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 28 November 2018].

[9] K. Panetta, “Eight Dimensions of Business Ecosystems,” Gartner, 12 July 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 07 December 2018].

[10] H. F. Schantz, “The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE): The Electronic Super Highway of the Twenty First Century,” 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[11] Segen's Medical Dictionary, “Immersive Digital Environment,” Farlex, Inc., 2011. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 28 November 2018].

[12] B. R. Konsynski, . J. E. Kottemann, J. F. Nunamake Jr. and J. . W. Stott , “An Integrated Development Environment for Information Systems,” Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 64 - 104, 1984.

[13] T. Petrocelli, “Tom's Tech Talk II: Closed versus Open Social Networks,” Techalignment, 24 July 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 November 2018].

[14] V. Beal, “Rule-Based System,” Webopedia, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[15] J. Garret and S. Shaneman, “A Presentation on the Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Simulation,” in Meeting with ODASD(SE) Deputy Director of Engineering Tools & Environments on October 4, 2018, Alexandria, VA, 2018.

[16] M. McDonald, “Digital Engineering Transforming Manufacturing,” SciTech, AIAA Organization, 8 January 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[17] Government of Western Australia Department of Commerce, “The Digital Ecosystem,”, 2 September 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[18] BearingPoint, “Digital Ecosystem Management- The new way to grow,”, 31 August 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[19] U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), “Systems Engineering Transformation,”, 30 January 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[20] CREATE Program Office, “Computational Research and Engineering Acquisition Tools and Environments (CREATE),” DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[21] National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS), “In the Spotlight: the CREATE AV Program,”, 4 November 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[22] J. P. Holland, “Engineering for Resilience,” in AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech 2016), San Diego, CA, 2016.

[23] McKinsey & Company, “Wining in digital ecosystems,” Digital McKinsey Insights, pp. 1-74, January 2018.

[24] Gartner, “Digital Business Ecosystems & The Platform Economy,” Gartner, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 28 November 2018].

25] D. J. Hughes, A. Lee, A. W. Tian, A. Newman and A. Legood, “Leadership, creativity, and innovation: A critical review and practical recommendations,” The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 549-569, 2018.

[26] J. Lubell, K. Chen, S. Frechette, J. Horst and P. Huang, “Model Based Enterprise / Technical Data Package Summit Report,” NIST Technical Note 1753, August 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 27 November 2018].

mbse/digital_engineering_ecosystem.txt · Last modified: 2019/05/01 09:15 by jcoleman