top header
top gradation HOME top vertical line top vertical line top vertical line top vertical line top vertical line top vertical line top vertical line menu gray
black line 2
menu gray tab More About ATI
menu blue ATI — Who We Are
white line
menu blue Contact ATI Courses
white line
menu blue List Of ATI Courses
white line
menu blue Attendees Testimonials
white line
menu blue The ATI FAQ Sheet
white line
menu blue Suggestions/Wait List
white line
menu blue New Courses
white line
menu blue Become an ATI Instructor
menu gray tab site resources
menu blue Acoustics & Sonar
white line
menu blue Rockets & Space
white line
menu blue GPS Technology
white line
menu blue ATI Blog
white line
menu blue ATI Space News
white line
menu blue ATI Site Map
white line
menu blue ATI Staff Tutorials
white line
menu blue ATI Sampler Page
white line
menu gray tab bar
menu gray tab courses
white line
menu blue Current Schedule
white line
menu blue Onsite Courses
white line
menu blue Register Online
white line
menu blue Request Brochure
white line
menu blue Free On-Site Price Quote
white line
menu blue Download Catalog
white line
menu blue Distance Learning
black line

Systems Engineering Best Practices and Technical CONOPS with Special Techniques for Cyber, IT and Other Software-Intensive Projects

Share |

A Scenario-Based, Collaborative Approach for Engineers, Scientists, Business Developers, Acquisition Professionals, Architects, Project Managers and Users


Technical Training Short On Site Course Quote

Studies show 90% of development projects fail. This course will show you how to get your project into the 10% that field successfully and are aggressively supported by users. Designed for engineers, system architects, PMs, buyers and business development/marketing. Research shows most failed projects, including cyber/IT, adopted the wrong SE processes and were consumed by them, listened to the wrong customers/user, or both. These failed projects and programs also lacked 1) an objective assessment of critical design and development issues and 2) critical thinking skills throughout the project team. In three days this course teaches how to apply those tools and processes and work with users. Case studies show how Systems Engineering’s (SE) Best Practices reduce costs, reduce risk and lock-down stakeholders’ needs. Learn to communicate with users and operators with the Technical Concept of Operations (TechCONOPS) and Operations Concept Description (OCD). Real-world success stories show how five pillars of SE underpin successful defense and commercial projects. Examples of failed projects pinpoint causes. Reinforce new skills in a relaxed, small team environment with hands-on exercises each day. Each student will receive a copy of Just Enough Requirements Management by Alan Davis ($50 value); ~200 pages of CONOPS examples and templates, SE tools; checklists, handouts; instructor slides; technical writing tips; personalized certificate of competency; class photo; invitation to join graduates-only Community of Interest.

How do our clients use CONOPS

View Course Sampler

    "Your CONOPS course was the most worthwhile training I've had since. . . kindergarten!"

    "This was probably the most interesting training course I have ever taken. The instructor's experience/knowledge really added to the value of the class - phenomenal real-world stories. Enjoyed MBTI portion. Can't think of any way to improve the course."

Read More Student Testimonials



    Mack McKinney has 38 years’ experience in major systems development, fielding and hands-on use, first as a US Air Force officer and then as a defense contractor (including cyber ops). He holds US patents in hyperspectral sensing and radar processing. He has published papers at the Lean Systems Engineering International Conference and has written CONOPS for the DISA, Boeing and others. He lectures and teaches systems engineering and CONOPS worldwide. He is also a senior, experienced technical writer/editor with hands-on experience in aerospace project management, leadership and technical and proposal writing. For the past 10 years he has also been teaching Technical Writing and Critical Thinking at post-graduate level. Recognized Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) subject matter expert (SME) with hands-on C4I experience. Active pilot. Fully cleared.

    Contact this instructor (please mention course name in the subject line)

What you will learn:
  • Systems Engineering Best Practices in use today, tools to use (and avoid), what works and what doesn’t
  • How to communicate with users through CONOPS, OCDs, Operating Concepts (OPCONS) and Concepts of Employment (CONEMPS). How to build them and when to use (and NOT use) each one: Robotic Battlefield Medic scenario-based exercises.
  • Technical Writing (2 hour crash course - - - the minimum you need to know)
  • How and when to work with all four user groups
  • How to meet and interview users and operators at deployed locations (do’s and don’ts)
  • Two types and five levels of CONOPS and when to use each. Multiple examples including IT projects.
  • Critical and creative thinking skills needed today

After this course you will be able to build OpCons and CONOPS that integrate tightly with proven systems engineering practices and techniques. You will be able to determine the appropriate type and level for a CONOPS effort; work closely with end users of your products and systems to elicit solid, actionable, user-driven requirements; and use time-tested systems engineering tools to prevent scope-creep.

Course Outline:

  1. Master Systems Engineering’s Best Practices to reduce costs, reduce risk and understand stakeholders’ needs. SE provides a strong foundation for program success:
    • Learn from real-world success stories, how five pillars of Lean systems engineering underpin successful defense and commercial projects
    • Understand how SE processes are supported by Technical Concept of Operations (TechCONOPS), mapped to Operations Concept Descriptions (OCDs)
    • Learn how to CONOPS map to the five S’s of SE: Sort, Set, Sweep, Standardize, Sustain
    • Reinforce your new skills in a small team environment with hands-on exercises each day

  2. Use scenario-based training and Concept Analysis to build OCDs, OpCons, Concepts of Employment (ConEmps) and CONOPS. Then combine with proven SE techniques to tackle a real-world problem (Robotic Battlefield Medic).

  3. Learn how to develop a strong CONOPS that communicates project benefits, makes your program cancellation-resistant and delivers more capability to users
    • Two types and five levels of CONOPS with content, emphasis and uses for each
    • How OpCons and CONOPS drive user manuals, Modeling and Simulation
    • The interplay of CONOPS and requirements and how to keep them synchronized

  4. Build a workable Operating Concept (OpCon) and the math behind it

  5. Projects that are not 100% successful (don’t achieve design goals, not embraced by customers, over-run budget, arrive late, etc.) have often collected requirements from the wrong stakeholders! Prevent that with a User-Driven Stakeholder Matrix (taught only in this course).

  6. Discover Proven Techniques for Working With Operational Users:
    • Four User Groups: How to work effectively with each; rules for visiting an ops unit/site
    • All users are not operators (where to find the good ones and how to gain access to them)

  7. Special Techniques for IT/Cyber and Other Software-Intensive Projects: Quality Software Requirements and the Software Requirements Specification; stress testing and realistic operational scenarios tied to CONOPS; getting users’ help; tracing requirements to CONOPS.

  8. Become a proficient writer: Technical Writing in Plain English (1 hour crash course included). Learn to write clearly using the tutorial “Writing Technical Documents People Will Read” and build skills in purpose, audience, content, style and mechanics

  9. See benefits of User-Driven Development for for Systems Engineers:
    • Critical thinking, creative thinking, empathic thinking, counterintuitive thinking and when to use (and WHEN NOT to use) each type in developing systems
    • Forming the SE-CONOPS team in parallel with the contract and collaborating with users
    • Implementing a solid program to hire and retain former users - - - eliminate scope-creep and help your teams deliver on-schedule and under-budget every time
    • Two questions developers must ask users (one question that may get you thrown out)
    • Scenarios and answer “What Would You Do” challenges throughout each day (nobody dozes off).

  10. Lessons Learned From Bad or Non-Existent CONOPS – real world problems with fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, C3I systems, DHS border security project, humanitarian relief effort, radar

  11. Case studies on program-killers - - - $$$ millions invested and lost- - - see what went wrong and key lessons (to be) learned. Software for automated imagery analysis; low cost, lightweight, hyperspectral sensor; non-traditional ISR; innovative ATC aircraft tracking system; air defense system; ACS; full motion video for bandwidth-disadvantaged users in combat: Doing it right!

  12. How briefing a CONOPS is different from other presentations: What makes a “good” CONOPS briefing, operational scenario, OV-1 and OV-2; Do’s and don’ts in building CONOPS graphics

  13. The role of end users in successful projects and programs (how to find and recruit helpful users)
    • Gaining the trust of users and getting their candid comments and suggestions (even when the Contracting Officer discourages it - - - DoD examples)
    • Using confidential suggestions from users, for product updates and new product development, without violating their trust.
    • How to design-in clarity and avoid surprises using Operating Concepts (airspace management and commercial airport examples)
    • Using high-level systems (and organizational) designs to impact downstream capabilities


    Tuition for this three-day course is $1490 per person per person at one of our scheduled public courses. Onsite pricing is available. Please call us at 410-956-8805 or send an email to

    Register three or more people at a public course and receive a $100 discount for each of the registration fees.