Make use of different approaches and techniques to manage software acquisitions.
A national experience in acquiring software for ITS projects.
- Maintain flexibility throughout the acquisition. Flexibility is needed in the contract to accommodate changes and take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves during design and implementation. With software, there needs to be more give and take than on typical construction projects that are successfully built to a rigid set of design specifications. Flexibility is needed in the requirements, in the working relationships, in the contracting mechanism, and most importantly, in the mindsets of those involved. At the outset of a project, a flexible mindset allows a wide range of options to be considered in selecting the most appropriate contracting mechanism, perhaps even some that have not been tried previously. Similarly, in developing the requirements for a system, there has to be recognition that the users may not be able to get everything they want; there may be tradeoffs among functionality, price, and schedule. Caution in maintaining flexibility is necessary as well; there can be too much flexibility where the scope of the project is increased or new requirements continue to be added. These situations should be avoided.
- Address all acquisition activities in the planning stage. Up-front planning is needed early in the acquisition, even for activities such as system acceptance that do not take place until late in the acquisition process. Activities such as requirements walk-throughs, design reviews, training, acceptance testing, and maintenance do not take place until after a contract is awarded or even at the end of the project. Nonetheless, these items must be planned up front, even before a Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued. This allows the procuring agency to plan for the various activities in the project schedule and allocate adequate time for them. It also enables the agency to address the operations and maintenance concepts, system acceptance criteria, and software intellectual property rights in the RFP and contract. Conformity with the National ITS Architecture is another area to address in the up-front planning of a project.
- Recognize that there are no "silver bullets." No one acquisition practice or contracting mechanism is the solution that can be relied upon to ensure project success. As an example, there are some in the ITS community that believe new contracting mechanisms for software are needed. This is probably a good idea; although new mechanisms will not solve all problems with software procurement.
Author: Arthur E. Salwin
Published By: U.S. Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office Federal Highway Administration
Source Date: July 1998
EDL Number: 4130
Other Reference Number: FHWA-JPO-98-035URL: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/jpodocs/repts_te/4130.pdf
Dr. Arthur Salwin
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Lesson of the Month for October, 2006 !