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Trade Study Analysis

Trade study analysis is the activity of identifying the most balanced technical solution. Trade studies are commonly used in the design of aerospace and automotive vehicles and the software selection process to find the configuration that best meets conflicting performance requirements.

When the system can be fully characterized by equations, formal optimization or linear programming methods work and the decision is simple. However, in practice information is:

  • Uncertain 

  • Evolving —new information is being developed that affects the trades

  • Both qualitative and quantitative—the most important trade studies have predominantly qualitative information

  • Comes from conflicting sources—in systems engineering, many people have some of the information needed; no one person has it all

  • The best choice comes from a team, building a shared mental model of the situation.


Formal optimization or linear programming can only play a supporting role in this reality.

Read David Ullman’s paper on trade study analysis with uncertain information as published in the Sixteenth Annual International Symposium of the International Council On Systems Engineering (INCOSE) 2006, titled "Trade Studies with Uncertain Information".

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