A group who shares ideas and experiences employing innovative acquisition practices, collaborative methods and use of Web2.0 technologies to transform federal acquisition.
Anatomy of an Acquisition
December 15, 2009 at 6:09 pm #87233
I counting on the tremendous brain power in this forum to help the Business Transformation Agency (DoD BTA) develop a variant of the current Defense Department Acquisition policy. We’re using the “tailoring” capability already found in the 5000.2 to craft a “commodity based” acquisition model.
Our intent is to streamline the Acquisition process for the commodity known as “business IT.” We are asserting that business IT (non-national security systems) should not be subject to the same process as weapon systems (read JCIDS, IIPT, OIPT, etc). The current process for acquisition is longer than the usable life of the technologies being purchased and deployed.
Politically, we’ve had a good bit of success with the Joint staff, AT&L, etc. Folks are on board with the concept and are ready to let it come into it’s own, but the devil is always in the details.
Specifically, I’m looking to paint a picture of the anatomy of an acquisition – from concept to capability – relative to business IT acquisition. I need an accounting for events, check points, relative cycle times, etc. For example, a typical business IT acquisition is subject to Clinger Cohen compliance, INFOSEC, Privacy, AOA, KPP’s, the 5000, etc. Clinger Cohen can take months to complete all by itself (I’ve heard as many as 18 months to complete).
Can you help me to re-construct an Acquisition from birth of an idea to deployment of a new capability? Person A has an idea, what happens next? Requirements… What happens after that? Etc. For those old enough to remember, think the old Sesame Street program of how a bill becomes a law…
By reconstructing a Business IT Acquisition, I hope to produce a report and a diagram that helps us to ensure we tag all the bases & don’t miss something vital.
I’m not sure if a forum like this can help, but I thought I’d give it a try.
December 16, 2009 at 2:58 am #87261
Wondering if you’ve considered putting out a data call to CAOs in civilian agencies to see if they have such an animal. Many many years ago when I was sitting at DLA in Richmond, I was given a “cheat sheet” and I asked what it all meant…there were no answers but at least the “steps” were there. Many agencies are seeking to simplify and encapsulate their processes into reusuable templates. So, if you can find samples of what some agencies are doing as repeatable (best practices) using templates, check lists, etc. it might help with that schematic. With many years experience on “this side” now – I do wonder at times why this is so complex and I do see a lot of agencies trying to simplify. We have watched industry suffer also and developed a structured process for them to follow with steps and accountability built into the model….there might be a way to transfer that type of approach to the “acquisition” side also. Not sure if the product firms such as PRISM, etc. offer such a schematic(s) as part of their documentation but could be worth asking. Thanks for putting this out for comment.
December 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm #87259
I certainly wish to be a part of this discussion.
Let’s start with the ‘simplest’ of items on the list that sometimes the acquisition folks ‘don’t ask for’ and just assume one knows to submit, but naive companies or entities may not know is important to literally have on the table:
1) Duns and Bradstreet ratings report with required number (min.) of responses
2) Business License copy (electronic/scanned)
3) Business insurance with Worker’s Compensation (electronic/scanned)
4) If any chemicals involves whatsoever in the manufacturing or service – have MSDS sheets (electronic/scanned) PLUS the letters of quarantee of supply from your supplier and/or manufacturer
5) Resumes of the key major players who will be providing the brain power, management, skill sets of the solution being provided in 2-3 pages (Max.) format that are standardized and readable
6) Solicitation knowledge – those who know how to read the ‘parts’ of the solictation / contract, etc. or RFP/RFQ.
7) Any other supporting documents that show you are legally in business in the city, state, locality, or nationwide, including any incorporation papers (You don’t want to cross from one form of business entity to another after you have submitted the proposal – do it all before you submit or after you have gotten GSA approval)
8) A separate accounting system from non-government (GSA) work (with proven GAAP processes and procedures)
9) IF you are going to do security based work (DoD Security Clearances) then have your security officer trained on who to get into and add folks to JPAS before you start or you may be dead in the water
10) Have your pre-determined, and well-reaearched costs in place and if the prices or costs go up while you are working on the proposal – be sure to adjust them carefully, and review often – when you do submit, those costs are going to be firm for no less than one calendar year, so be wise in your determinations.
That’s my feedback and input from my knowledge to date of GSA schedule proposal building.
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December 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm #87257
Dawn, This is awesome feedback. Thank you for making the time to put this list together and share on this subject! I will be incorporating some of this information for sure.
December 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm #87255
Cindy, Thanks for the suggestion. I think the cheat sheet idea that you mentioned would be a great addition to this discussion.
I frankly wouldn’t know how to put out a data call to CAO’s in civilian agencies. Is there some kind of forum besides GovLoop that you’re aware of? What is the best channel for reaching CAO’s?
December 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm #87253
David – there is a site where all the CAOs are listed I believe….I am working from memory here but I can research this for you by tomorrow. If you are affiliated with IAC, they have an Acquisition Special Interest Group (SIG) that could possibly set up a task force to work on this for you (I would like to be included!!!) – there is a link inside the http://www.actgov.org site to the Acq SIG and they have a link to the info you would need to do a “reach out” to CAOs or their designees for this type of thing. They also post current acquisition directives and white house memorandums relative to new initiatives, ie Transparency. Please let me know if you are successful in finding this info and I will let you know when I find that other set of “links” to assist you. If early Jan works for you (and this isn’t urgent) I can come in and we can chat about it face to face – I’m pretty linked into the acquistion contracting community and I’m certain we can find some help for this project. I don’t know how private replies work on this forum so will provide my email address if you need it…[email protected] – good luck! CB
December 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm #87251
Cindy, Thank you! Luck has little to do with it… If we get anywhere, it’s because of contributions like the ones you just made.
December 20, 2009 at 10:13 pm #87249
December 29, 2009 at 7:53 pm #87247
As for defining a Business IT Acquisition model, the biggest issues I saw that BTA had with previous attempts was convincing the various OSD functional organizations of a new model. DOT&E wants their TEMP, not a TEMP-like document. J8 wants a JCB to vet requirements, not a use case plan.
NII is using the Mar 09 Defense Science Board’s Report http://www.dtic.mil/srch/doc?collection=t3&id=ADA498375 to develop a new IT Acquisition model and per the FY10 NDAA run 10 pilot programs through the new model. A high risk – high reward approach.
The IT Acquisition Advisory Council (IT-AAC) http://www.it-aac.org/ has been developing a new IT Acquisition Roadmap with some senior current and former DoD officials with mixed results.
For software development the key is smaller “chunks” of work. Don’t call them increments or you’ll fall into the DODI 5000.02 bureaucracy. Smaller efforts go faster, are cheaper, reduce risk, easier to estimate cost and schedule, and have fewer opportunities for something to slow it down. Get into a rhythm with small efforts while periodically feeding the “oversight beast” with some key data and an occassional decision.
For outlining any reform, as a GovLooper you know it is critical to publish all your information, issues, discussions, draft concepts, briefings, documents, and data online so the broad community can follow, provide feedback, offer innovative solutions, and buy-in to the final solution.
December 31, 2009 at 11:18 pm #87245
I love that Schoolhouse rock video. 3 minutes and I still remember it from childhood. Thanks for bringing it back!
Yes, the politics are always a necessity. They are usually contentious and result in a lot of compromise, but without them, there is no show.
I appreciate the “chunks” advice. The words we use too often derail the train. People have strong associations with certain semantics like “increments” or “milestones.” I’m not alone in having to endure many a long unproductive meeting just untangling differences in participant definitions.
WRT publishing all… I agree with you. And I believe that people are looking for “safe” ways to to this. What do you and other GovLoopers think is the best way to share?
I am reminded of Nathanial Hawthorne wrote in “The Artist of the Beutiful:”
“Thus it is, that ideas which grow up within the imagination, and appear so lovely to it, and of a value beyond whatever men call valuable, are exposed to be shattered and annihilated by contact with the Practical. It is requisite for the ideal artist to possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with its delicacy; he must keep his faith in himself, while the incredulous world assails him with its utter disbelief; he must stand up against mankind and be his own sole disciple, both as respects his genius, and the objects to which it is directed.”
Basically, Hawthorne highlights a phenomenon common to government work: Stand up and offer an idea, especially if it radically changes the status quo, and risk political annihilation. Before an idea is fully formed, it is susceptible to destruction – predatory or otherwise.
There are some of us who want to collaborate on this sort of thing. Thus the motivation behind this blog post. So how do we do that? Love to hear a few good ideas.
January 2, 2010 at 5:09 pm #87243
The process your referring to for business IT is already in the works by using the BTA Business Capability Lifecycle (BCL) methodology. One of my previous client’s is using this methodology for an ERP system, which was a great way to match the acquisition process to the requirements and the procurement.
Would this not apply to your BTA initiative, or is this something else?
January 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm #87241
You are exactly correct. It the BCL process that I have in mind as I ask these questions. We have already put a lot of work into BCL and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is still room for improvement in structure, in the way we draw distinctions between it and the other acquisition processes, and in the way we communicate it.
As Peter alludes to, it is often mixed up with (and sometimes ensnared by) other processes such as the JCB, TEMP, JCIDS, 5000.2 – even Clinger Cohen Compliance. People get confused easily (which is completely understandable). By simply mapping out the complete life cycle of a Business Capability from concept to capability, we hope to be able to streamline (using the 5000 ability to tailor), and make clear the distinctions (and similarities) between BCL and the other existing processes.
BCL by itself is a clean, simple, elegant process. Much like this handsome looking mallard.
Once we release BCL into the DoD acquisition environment, it quickly gets coated with years of built up environmental/cultural crud that makes it look rather like this unfortunate fellow: A beautiful duck covered in crud.
By documenting the acquisition environment, we are hoping to make it easier to keep the BCL duck clean. We also want to make sure it’s got all of its necessary pieces and parts (but ONLY the necessary pieces and parts). Can’t have a duck with one wing missing or two heads. 😉
January 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm #87239
Happy New Year! Yes, don’t we all want our environments to be “duck clean”….hah! I ran across this webinar which I plan to sign up for…not sure if they will address the “how to” or cheat sheets we’ve been discussing here, but might be worth a couple of hours time….Don’t miss this exclusive Webinar on
Thursday, January 14, 2010. Register today at http://www.defensedaily.com/events/workforce_webinar!
January 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm #87237
I will now go home and have nightmares. I’ll think of the first mallard picture.
Understand and agree, no doubt. I am string proponent of BCL, and tailoring the IT acquisition to process to use it lieu of DoD 5000. Institutionally culture aside, like I tell my clients, if you blow stuff up; DoD 5000. IT; BCL. Risk assessment model a perfect path.
As I perceived from experience, and you state, it is the communication of BCL’s existence that is lacking and needs to be strengthened. I wish leadership would just streamline the system and make it policy according to the guidelines in my advice, (perhaps change the language) and things would be much better.
As you can see, I am an optimist.
January 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm #87235
Great comments. I’d love to talk about some creative ways to get the word out about BCL, but I think I’ll have to start another string. Ha! 😉
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