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University of Colorado Boulder

Systems Engineering and Program Management

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


This course teaches the learner how to apply Systems Engineering to the overall management of a complex program. This includes tailoring the systems engineering process to the specific needs of a particular program. The risk management process is described, including how to identify risks and develop a mitigation strategy. The key management tools are described along with how the scope of a program is defined and managed according to the terms of the contract. This course can be taken for academic credit as part of CU Boulder’s Master of Engineering in Engineering Management (ME-EM) degree offered on the Coursera platform. The ME-EM is designed to help engineers, scientists, and technical professionals move into leadership and management roles in the engineering and technical sectors. With performance-based admissions and no application process, the ME-EM is ideal for individuals with a broad range of undergraduate education and/or professional experience. Learn more about the ME-EM program at


  • Planning the Work
    • We will begin Course 3 be examining the documentation that is sued to define the scope of a project and then manage to that scope. Unmanaged scope growth is detrimental to the performance of a program and is equally frustrating for both the customer and the supplier. Getting things carefully documented at the outset is key to the early identification of changes in scope. Lets look at the tools of the trade for keeping ourselves on task and focused on meeting the end user's needs.
  • Managing Cost and Contracting Fundamentals
    • In this module, we will learn about how to manage cost on a program. We will look at some considerations for creating a forecast and how to measure performance against the forecast. In the second half of the module, we will go over some contracting fundamentals. I don't want to make anyone into a Contracts Manager, but rather convey some top-level considerations on how various contract types impact behavior on the engineering team.
  • Risk, Risk Management, and Change Control Management
    • In this module, we will learn the process for managing risks and opportunities. Systems Engineers bring a lot to the table for this important task because they have been trained to look at things in terms of system-level impacts and with a lifecycle view. Our goal will be to learn how to develop actionable intelligence that will help your program mitigate the impact of realized risks or prevent their occurrence altogether. In the second half of the Module, we will learn about change management - both from a contractual standpoint as well as managing engineering changes, which are two distinct processes.
  • Dealing with Failures
    • This module could be considered kind of depressing because it is about dealing with failures. However, a little bit of preparation can go a long way to helping the team recover from a disappointing outcome with dignity and professionalism. We will examine the process for establishing and conducting failure reviews. Thankfully, most failures are not terribly catastrophic, but even the more inconsequential failures can benefit from a rigorous investigative process. One of the most important, and often illusive aspects of dealing with a failure is identifying the root cause. We will spend some time learning about a handful of pragmatic tools to assist with this.

Taught by

William Van Atten


5 rating at Coursera based on 15 ratings

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