Model-Based System and Architecture Engineering with the Arcadia Method by Jean-Luc Voirin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another post, another review. This time the topic might seem a bit unusual, but actually it fits quite well into the line layed out so far, as model-based systems engineering is a great tool to develop solutions from the ground up in a structured and standardized fashion. Let’s see how the book about it fared. Please enjoy.
This book is meant to introduce the reader to the Arcadia MBSE method and the accompanying Capella modeling language, which is not an easy task to do, considering that engineering methods are rather complex topics. There are probably several ways to do it, so let’s see which approach the author chose to tackle the problem.
The book is broken up into three main chapters: fundamentals, application of the method and a glossary. The first part starts out with a usual introduction, where the author describes the motivations behind creating this new method, and then continues with a brief history about how the method came to life. Next, the main parts (perspectives) of the model are described briefly, to give the reader some idea what is about to be discussed in length. Finally, the rest of the first part is taken up by a systematic and detailed description of how each perspective of the model is developed.
What immediately stands out, is that almost the entirety of this part is written in prose, which makes it quite hard to follow what tasks and in what order need to be done to develop the perspectives. To further complicate things, the author chose not to explain all concepts the first time they appear, instead the majority of such explanation is found in the last chapter. The explanations that do appear in place, are completely hidden in the wall of text. Highlighting such concepts and their explanations in a box would’ve helped immensely.
I also couldn’t help but notice that there is a serious lack of explanatory figures in this chapter. I’m not talking about the example project (and associated diagrams) that is being constructed as the book progresses, but figures that would help to understand the method structure (of building the perspective) itself. As it turned out, such figures do exist in the book, but for some reason they are also presented in the very last chapter only. Moreover, having a before-after pair of example model diagrams would’ve been extremely beneficial as well, as right now it is completely up to the reader to figure out which model diagram (and associated model elements) evolved into which ones up in the model hierarchy. This unfortunately also requires a large amount of back-and-forth seeking in the book.
The second main chapter is about applying a model in viewpoint analysis, IVV planning and execution, designing system supervision, states and modes and more. This chapter follows a similar structuring and implementation as the previous one with the same associated problems, so there is no need to repeat them. The Third part of the book is pretty much a glossary of terms, concepts and modeling language elements listed one after another, which is pretty easy to follow and understand. In this part of the book the author presented a lot more explanatory figures than before, which the reader will really appreciate after the first two main chapters.
The overall structuring of the book follows a rather interesting approach. As mentioned before, a lot of first time concept definitions are ported to the back of the book, which indeed makes it easier to look them up, but in turn it makes it harder to comprehend the book as a first time reader (due to the missing in-place explanations). This structure of course can work if the reader is fully aware of it right from the beginning, but expecting this from the first time reader is not necessarily a good strategy.
The overall impression is that even though the book contains pretty much everything needed to master Arcadia (or at least to acquire a solid understanding to start out with it), using this book as a reference in a day-to-day work seems to be very hard, due to it being almost entirely written in prose with very little highlighting and summary of important concepts. As such, learning the method poses quite a challenge without creating a separate bullet-pointed list of tasks/concepts as the book is read. Because of aforementioned reasons I can only give it 3 stars.