NEWS AT SEI
This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:Acquisition Support
This article was originally published in News at SEI on: February 1, 2005
The SEI’s Acquisition Support Program (ASP) assists the U.S. Department of Defense and civil agency program offices responsible for acquisition of software and systems. To accomplish this, the SEI has developed a three-point approach.
As part of knowledge transfer, the SEI has developed “Software Acquisition Survival Skills” (SASS), a three-day training course aimed specifically at acquisition professionals tasked with acquiring software or software-intensive systems. This course provides an overview of skills needed by the program manager and program office staff to successfully acquire systems and software.
SASS was developed by first researching the problems that typically beset acquisition offices. SEI staff members studied a number of published reports addressing acquisition by the DoD and other civil agencies, and examined the training provided by the DoD to acquisition professionals, and extracted the major issues. (We reviewed the DAU acquisition courses, earlier DoD training [ARES, Boldstroke], and training from other sources [Aerospace, NRO].) We surveyed program managers from the DoD and other civil agencies, staff from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and SEI staff involved with acquisition programs, asking them “What are the five biggest problems that you see in programs?” We categorized and prioritized the responses based on the frequency of occurrence and severity of impact as reported by respondents. We started at the top of the list and built instructional modules for each category. Because the course duration was specified at three days, we had enough time for eight modules. The top eight problem areas (listed below in no particular order) became the topics for the SASS instructional modules.
Each topic is presented from the perspective of the acquirer and examines the challenges posed in acquisition programs. For example, the Process Management instruction module covers the role of the program manager in defining and managing program office and program processes, in overseeing contractor process management, and in integrating the process sets of the program stakeholders (e.g., program office, contractors, and subcontractors). The module also presents steps the Program Manager can take to improve Program Office processes, and to encourage contractors to improve their processes.
While the breadth of the information covered and the short duration (three days) of the course precludes in-depth coverage of these topics, instructors do attempt to provide actionable recommendations for the students. In addition to background information for each topic, SASS provides
To help students apply the concepts presented, each instructional module ends with a series of “What Do I Do Now?” slides, providing clear suggestions for next steps that can be taken at various stages of the program. Additionally, instructors provide a number of checklists, tools, and references that the students can use in the execution of their programs.
For students needing more detailed information on the topics presented in the course, the SEI offers a number of companion courses covering specific topics in more detail:
The SASS is a relatively new course, offered for the first time in 2004. Over the past year, SASS has been offered 15 times, and more than 200 students have been trained.
It has been offered as a public course five times (three times at the SEI in Pittsburgh and twice at the SEI in Arlington), with attendance from Army, Navy, Air Force, civil agencies, and commercial contractors. Public offerings in 2005 are scheduled for
Visit our website to register for the public course.
SASS has also been offered 10 times on-site at Army and Air Force program offices. On-site offerings have the greatest impact because the instructors can address a broad cross-section of the staff at a single program office and, in addition to presenting the course materials, discuss the specific issues affecting that program. Comments from program office staff, as well as follow-up contact with these program offices have shown the benefits achieved as the programs adopt the concepts presented in the course. Visit the training section of our website to learn how you can bring the SASS to your site.
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