Systems Engineering and the traditional engineering disciplines deal with technology and human factors in different ways:
Traditional engineering is based on analytical thinking and seeks to explain the whole based on explanation of its parts. Systems engineering favors synthetic thinking. It starts with the purpose and defines the functionality and the flows (information, skill, material, and funds) that, when optimized to work together, deliver expected results.
Traditional engineering is based on the "silo" mentality which is detrimental to the overall success of the system. Systems engineering aims to correct this problem by taking an inter-disciplinary approach.
The focus of traditional engineering is on a technical design of elements, whereas systems engineering concentrates on what the elements of the system are intended to do (functionality).
Traditional engineering tends to proceed from the bottom up, wheres systems engineering favors the top-town approach.
Traditional engineering applies the skills of engineering discipline to problems, whereas systems engineering defines the problem before determining what disciplines are needed.
Systems engineering includes the ecological, political, cultural, human and psychological factors of design. Traditional engineering tends to focus only of the technical aspects of a problem at hand.