Business challenge

Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems aims to deliver high quality systems engineering projects rapidly and cost-effectively, but relying on many development tools led to delays and a risk of human error.


The company implemented a fully integrated software engineering environment, enabling it to manage the entire development lifecycle with a level of end-to-end quality control automation.



software engineering efficiency and quality control


rework costs


on-time delivery of complex projects

Business challenge story

Speeding ahead of the competition

To strengthen its competitive position in a highly competitive niche market and excel in delivering high quality solutions, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems is always looking for ways to work more effectively without affecting quality.

“Thanks to our IBM Rational solutions, we are on course to deliver a complex software and hardware refresh project for one of our largest clients to an extremely tight deadline.”

—Spokesperson, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems

“Because we work with governments and large military organizations, we are accustomed to driving complex projects to meet tight deadlines and stringent quality control standards,” says a spokesperson for Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems. “However, when we won a major hardware and software refresh contract for one of our most important clients, we knew that meeting the program delivery without compromising quality would challenge our conventional engineering processes.”

Like many leading enterprises, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems relied on multiple tools and processes to drive each stage of its software engineering lifecycle, from design and development to testing and quality control. However, the company realized that it would be a challenge to unlock additional efficiencies if it continued with this approach.

The spokesperson continues: “We needed to deliver world class equipment running dependable, high performance and fully tested software faster than anything we had attempted before. The challenge was that each of our different software engineering tools came from different vendors and did not integrate, which meant that we dedicated a significant amount of time and manual effort to coordinate our processes.

“For example, because our requirements management tool was separate from our software development and test tool, it was time-consuming to assess the impact of requirement instability on the design, check requirements coverage through the design and test procedures to produce a solution fit for purpose and assess the impact of software defects on the requirements baseline.

“Another area where efficiencies had to be identified was in the ability to simulate the system before implementation—that is, before coding—in order to reduce the cost of finding defects late in the lifecycle. This aspect was particularly sensitive as the solution involved the management of numerous complex state machines with a large number of transitions, which was difficult to get right without simulation.

“To achieve our goal, we decided to replace our development tools for requirements analysis, software design, test management, document generation and tasking with a single, integrated software engineering environment. The aim was to allow for automated traceability from requirements down to test cases through design, and facilitate automated document generation at each stage of the development lifecycle. This allows us to achieve significant cost-efficiency, as well as higher quality control of the software output.”

Transformation story

Building an integrated development environment

After evaluating potential solutions from a number of different vendors, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems selected the IBM Rational tool suite: IBM Rational DOORS®, IBM Rational Quality Manager, IBM Rational ReporterPLUS, IBM Rational Rhapsody and IBM Rational Team Concert™.

“We selected IBM as our strategic platform because it offered all of the capabilities we needed in a mature, enterprise-class solution portfolio,” comments the spokesperson. “One of the key capabilities we targeted was to capture and link high level software requirements with the systems architecture and qualification test procedures. With Rational DOORS, Rational Rhapsody and Rational Quality Manager we saw that we could achieve exactly that. In particular, Rhapsody provided system simulation capabilities, which allowed us to validate the behavior of the software before its implementation and reduce the risk of having to rework code late in the project.”

When Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems first decided to implemented the integrated development environment, initial setup required significant effort on the part of its software engineers, who received support from IBM specialists for each tool in the suite. Training on Rational Rhapsody for design activities was also key for a successful adoption by the engineering community. Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems enlisted Abstract Solutions, an IBM Business Partner, to conduct external training courses for the IBM platform.

A spokesperson states: “After the initial deployment work was complete, Abstract Solutions continued to play a key role, providing a specialist contractor embedded in the software development team to fully exploit the functionalities of IBM Rational Rhapsody and deliver ad hoc support”.

Today, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems uses the IBM Rational solutions to drive its end-to-end development processes. Requirements captured in IBM Rational DOORS now flow automatically into IBM Rational Rhapsody and ultimately into IBM Quality Manager, enabling the company to enhance quality control and automate traceability throughout the development lifecycle.

Source code is automatically generated from simulated designs in IBM Rational Rhapsody. Design and test documentation is automatically produced with IBM Rational ReporterPLUS from the software model held in IBM Rational Rhapsody, with test cases defined in IBM Quality Manager. Finally, tasking, defect tracking and source configuration control are centrally managed in IBM Rational Team Concert, enabling full traceability between task, defect and implementation.

All these capabilities contribute to reducing costs and keeping design, implementation and documentation synchronized—facilitating more rigorous control of the end-to-end development lifecycle.

“Our IBM solutions give our team leads full visibility of all the models and code we create,” comments the spokesperson. “We now use IBM Rational Team Concert to set goals for each release iteration and verify that all work items (tasks or defects) have been completed on time. Having this information at our fingertips is helping to identify sticking points faster, and accelerate our development processes.”

Results story

Performing under pressure

With IBM Rational solutions at the heart of its software engineering processes, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems is achieving its goal of delivering cutting-edge products faster and more efficiently.

“We can now flow our requirements into our software models and ensure that all of our code is delivering on a requirement, making management far simpler,” explains the spokesperson. “Modeling in IBM Rational Rhapsody offers a high level of abstraction that shows clearly how each component in the system interacts and allows for early simulations.

“The more time we spend modeling at the high level, the less time we have to spend troubleshooting in our code. In fact, our high level models are now so detailed that we use IBM Rational Rhapsody to generate the code automatically, a process that was completely manual before.”

The spokesperson continues: “Because every part of the solution is fully integrated, any change we make in one Rational tool automatically flows back out to dependent data in any other system. As a result, we minimize the amount of time we need to spend troubleshooting issues in our code, which boosts our efficiency.”

In addition, the IBM platform is helping Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems to enhance its documentation, testing and quality control processes.

“In the past, validating that code was correctly tested and documented were labor-intensive processes that relied on swiveling between multiple systems,” explains the spokesperson. “Today, that’s all changed. We can now move from tool to tool without any need to manually import data. For example, once we have completed development in Rational Rhapsody, we can start testing the code in Rational Quality Manager immediately, and log and track any impediments collaboratively in Rational Team Concert.

“Producing formal design documents is now also a highly automated process. With IBM Rational ReporterPLUS, we can output all of the technical information we need at the push of a button, freeing our project managers to invest more of their time in higher value software development tasks.”

The spokesperson concludes: “Thanks to IBM Rational solutions, we are on course to deliver a complex software and hardware project for one of our largest clients to an extremely tight deadline. Our IBM solutions are a key enabler of our success to date and we are confident that our ability to deliver high quality cutting-edge solutions faster will be a valuable source of competitive advantage going forward.”


About Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems

Headquartered in Middlesex, England, Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems is a world leader in sonar and torpedo defense systems. Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems is a proven systems integrator with over 60 years’ experience in delivering innovative underwater solutions, equipment and support services to customers worldwide. Its parent group, Ultra Electronics, is an international defense, security, transport and energy group with a long, consistent track record of development and growth.

Take the next step

Based in Guildford, England, Abstract Solutions is an IBM Business Partners that provides world-class consulting, training and software tools to help organizations improve their systems and software engineering process. With more than 20 years’ experience assisting blue-chip organizations implement lightweight, model-driven design processes for embedded software systems, Abstract Solutions enables its clients to reduce development costs and lead time. To learn more about Abstract Solutions, please visit: To learn more about IBM Watson Internet of Things solutions, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

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