For many organizations, the most valuable engagement with the SEI comes in the form of a program assessment, review, or evaluation. The SEI has developed a valued reputation as a skilled, fair, and neutral examiner of software acquisition programs.
Independent technical assessments (ITAs) uncover the root causes of problems affecting software-intensive programs, and provide recommendations that maximize a program’s strengths and minimize and mitigate its risks. ITAs are typically initiated by a system program director, program executive officer, or other acquisition official. ITA teams comprise SEI staff members and visiting scientists with a mix of expertise who conduct a series of interviews with program stakeholders and deliver a briefing and recommendations.
A software risk evaluation provides program managers with a mechanism to anticipate and address program risks. This evaluation is used to identify and categorize specific program risks emanating from products, processes, management, resources, and constraints. The program’s staff members participate in the identification, analysis, and mitigation of risks that could affect their development effort.
The language used in a formal request for proposal (RFP) makes a critical difference in the quality of the proposals received and ultimately the success of an acquisition program. The SEI is adept at developing RFP language, including sample language for a variety of specific clauses relevant to software-intensive acquisition. For example, some proposals should specifically address the importance of software architecture, process improvement, the software test and evaluation approach, software measurement needs, and requirements. Additionally, the SEI works directly with acquirers to improve RFP processes and capabilities, conducting pre-award workshops to help identify and mitigate risks by evolving the RFP package. After the award, the SEI helps establish expectations and process interactions between the acquirer and developers.
The SEI supports the proposal-evaluation phase of the source-selection process by providing technical reviews of the submissions, with an emphasis on software-related issues. Experienced SEI staff members help programs prepare to evaluate proposals, judge them against the criteria set forth in the solicitation, assist with past performance and cost evaluations, and more.
Effectively monitoring a contract requires that a program have in place an effective, customized measurement system. When a program’s measurement system includes consistent collection of metrics and analysis for decision making and fact-based planning, it can operate as an effective early-warning system for program problems. The SEI helps programs create a system for recording metrics data so that they can use reliable historical data as a basis for more accurate program estimates.
The SEI works with project stakeholders to ensure that customer requirements, product and architecture requirements, and analysis and validation processes reflect the fundamental needs that drive programs, from both mission and business perspectives. In addition, the SEI advises programs on how to manage requirements and architecture changes, maintain traceability and change history, and evaluate the impact of changes from the viewpoint of the stakeholders.
The SEI Quality Assessment of System Architectures and their Requirements (QUASAR) assessment method provides a practical way to determine if a system’s architecture, including its subsystems, meets quality requirements. SEI technical staff members help architects formulate claims, build arguments, and gather evidence to demonstrate to the program office and other stakeholders that their architectures possess sufficient quality.
The testing approach for a software-intensive system has a significant impact on the ultimate quality of the delivered system. SEI experts help to ensure an appropriate approach to software testing by reviewing the system-test approach. Conducting an evaluation ensures appropriate test coverage, traceability to requirements, testing for COTS products, visibility into contractor testing, testing of both quality and functional requirements, and integration of software testing into the overall test strategy.
A sustainment-readiness review can help an organization determine its overall software maintenance plan, whether its software is ready for sustainment, and whether sufficient artifacts exist. Technical experts from the SEI conduct sustainment-readiness reviews to identify potential issues with a project entering into sustainment and to recommend actions for preparing a project for sustainment.
The quality, completeness, and level of detail of milestone document deliverables have a substantial impact on a program’s ability to execute software development. Experts in many different areas of systems and software expertise can provide or augment the technical review of documents produced by both the program office and the contractor. Types of documents that can be reviewed include those emanating from the acquisition strategy as well as the transition and operations plans.
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