The ROI of systems engineering: Some quantitative results for software-intensive systems

Barry Boehm, Ricardo Valerdi, Eric Honour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


This paper presents quantitative results on the return on investment of systems engineering (SE-ROI) from an analysis of the 161 software projects in the COCOMO II database. The analysis shows that, after normalizing for the effects of other cost drivers, the cost difference between projects doing a minimal job of software systems engineering-as measured by the thoroughness of its architecture definition and risk resolution-and projects doing a very thorough job was 18% for small projects and 92% for very large software projects as measured in lines of code. The paper also presents applications of these results to project experience in determining "how much up front systems engineering is enough" for baseline versions of smaller and larger software projects, for both ROI-driven internal projects and schedule-driven outsourced systems of systems projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalSystems Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Return on investment
  • Systems architecting
  • Systems engineering measurement
  • Value of systems engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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