Managing Software Acquisition: Open Systems and COTS Products

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9780201704549: Managing Software Acquisition: Open Systems and COTS Products

The acquisition of open systems and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products is an increasingly vital element of corporate and government software development. Properly managed software acquisition offers potential for significant time and cost savings over a system's lifetime. The transition from proprietary, custom-built systems to systems based on standards and commercial products is not easy, however. Managers and their staff must understand the risks and opportunities associated with this acquisition approach.

Managing Software Acquisition presents the fundamental principles and best practices for successful acquisition of open, COTS-based systems. It explores the many opportunities and challenges of this approach, defines key terms, anticipates potential problems, and discusses the effect of software acquisition on the manager's job. The information presented addresses critical concerns affecting the entire software industry; it also discusses important issues particular to government acquisition.

Managing Software Acquisition moves from a broad overview of the topic to experience-based advice on managing the transition and more detailed information on acquisition. You will find coverage of such topics as:
  • Promises and pitfalls of open, COTS-based system acquisition
  • Implications for industry and government--quality, loss of control, and risk
  • Reference models, architectures, and standards for open systems and COTS products
  • Implications for cost, schedule, performance, and staff
  • Engineering practices, including defining requirements, integration, testing, deployment, and support
  • Contracting strategies and relationships with vendors
  • Integrated acquisition using standards and COTS products

Each major section concludes with realistic, open-ended exercises that illustrate vital issues confronting software acquisition managers. In addition, the book includes an extensive reference section containing a glossary, list of acronyms, sample questions to help organizations evaluate their needs, and more.



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About the Author:

B. Craig Meyers is a key figure at Carnegie-Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute (SEI), where he is involved in training and consulting on the acquisition of open, COTS-based systems. Patricia Oberndorf is a key figure at Carnegie-Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute (SEI), where she is involved in training and consulting on the acquisition of open, COTS-based systems.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In the rapidly changing world of software acquisition, open systems and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products continue to grow in importance because of their expected functional and economic advantages. This book will help you understand the many issues surrounding acquisition of open, COTS-based systems. Although our focus is on software acquisition, this book can equally apply to hardware and system acquisition. You also need to understand the relationship between open systems and COTS products. If you understand these issues, you can more easily deal with the dynamics of today's acquisition environment.

Audience

The intended audience of this book is project managers and their staffs who are involved in designing, developing, procuring, maintaining, funding, or evaluating computer systems in both private and public sectors. We use the term project manager to denote the individual responsible for completion of the acquisition activities for systems in government and industry. We use the term project staff to denote the many professionals who support the project manager. Each of these professionals has different responsibilities, concerns, and technical expertise, but the use of open systems and COTS products will affect each person in some way.

We recognize that readers may very well have experience in basic project management. We include some basic management information as background so that we can get all readers on the same page. The real difference arises, however, when we apply our management skills in the context of open, COTS-based systems. That's the challenge we want to help you address.

Purpose

The purposes of this book are to
  • Define basic terms, concepts, and processes related to open systems and the use of COTS products
  • Explain the potential benefits and difficulties of using an approach that relies on open systems and COTS products
  • Describe how open systems and COTS products affect the project manager and the project staff
  • Illustrate how to incorporate open systems and COTS products in the acquisition process
  • Highlight special concerns for government managers

Terms associated with open systems and COTS products have many different definitions. Experts may not agree, and you may find a lot of hype. We need to share a common understanding of what these terms mean, and we take care in defining relevant terms.

The use of open systems and COTS products has both potential benefits and potential difficulties. In this book, we discuss both. Emphasis on an acquisition approach that uses open systems and COTS products will change the way you do your job. We hope that this book helps you identify--and be able to successfully deal with--the challenges that lie ahead.

In writing this book, our emphasis is on principles related to the acquisition of systems that are based on open systems and COTS products. If you are able to understand the principles, you are more likely to be able to deal with management issues. Thus, our focus is not toward

  • Detailed technical issues. A detailed discussion of particular standards or sets of standards is outside the scope of this book. For example, we will not present a discussion of all the networking standards you may hear about. Instead, we concentrate on what such terms as standard and profile mean and discuss such topics as how standards are developed and selected and how they relate to COTS products.
  • Checklists. An acquisition approach based on open systems and COTS products can be complex and challenging. Despite the temptation to reduce this complexity to a simple set of checklists, we resist such an approach. Instead, we place emphasis on the specification and application of principles that govern the acquisition process. Maybe you can develop your own checklists, appropriate to your system, based on what you will learn in this book. But don't confuse a checklist with the understanding of basic acquisition, open systems, and COTS principles.

We believe that emphasis on principles will help you more than lots of details will. In many cases, a particular approach for your system will depend: on your situation, your goals, and your approach to meet the problems you will face along the way.

Open systems and the use of COTS products present unique challenges for government programs. Because the government's business practices are inherently different from those of industry, we devote special attention to government concerns. We hope that, to some degree, we can build a bridge and develop a shared understanding between government and industry regarding acquisition issues related to open systems and COTS products.

Organization and Content

This book consists of five main parts, which contain related chapters, and four appendixes.

  • Part One, Getting Started, consists of the first four chapters, which introduce the basic elements of open systems and the use of COTS products. These chapters present an overview of acquisition, describe the promises and pitfalls of the open, COTS-based approach, explore the paradigm shift to open systems and COTS products, and present the elements of an open, COTS-based approach.
  • Part Two, Understanding the New World, explores various aspects of open systems and COTS products. Chapters 5-8 look at reference models and architectures, standards, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, and acquisition roadmaps.
  • Part Three, Managing the Transition, provides information to help you maneuver successfully in the world of open systems and COTS products. Chapters 9-12 consider how open systems and COTS products can change your business, discuss special concerns for managers, describe engineering practices, and discuss procurement practices.
  • Part Four, Considering Acquisition, focuses on the acquisition context for open systems and the use of COTS products. Chapters 13-15 describe an acquisition framework used to describe various acquisition models, particularly acquisition models for open, COTS-based systems.
  • Part Five, Closing Thoughts, consists of one chapter, which looks at anticipated future acquisition issues, both general and specific to the government.
  • Other information is provided in the appendixes: a glossary of terms, a list of acronyms used in the book and what they mean, sample questions to help you analyze your system, and references.

This book uses two types of special notations to help you as you read this book. When we define a key term, we present it as follows.

open system: A collection of interacting software and hardware component implementations, and users ° Designed to satisfy stated needs ° Having the interface specification of components - Fully defined - Available to the public - Maintained according to group consensus ° In which the component implementations conform to the interface specifications

The second type of notation is for material that you may find interesting, enlightening, humorous, or thought provoking. Sometimes, we have included anecdotes from colleagues. We present this special information in a gray box like the following.

Leadership
All acquisition managers are expected to provide leadership to their organizations and their people, who must achieve the goals established by management. In a special message to Congress on urgent national needs in May 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech that included the following text: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."

Each chapter includes a number of open-ended questions in a section titled Food for Thought. These items have been taken from our experience over a number of years teaching this material to audiences that include people who are involved in acquisition on a daily basis. We include these questions to illustrate some of the issues that may confront you as you conduct your job.Few "right" answers apply universally to all project managers or systems. For this reason, it is difficult to give answers to these questions; in many cases, it depends: on the circumstances that are unique to your system. It is possible, however, to trace various approaches back to the principles discussed in this book. When you complete a chapter, look at these questions and spend a bit of time thinking your way through them. You may find some of the questions difficult, but don't be frustrated by them. Deal with them in the same way you would deal with any other difficult issue. You're also encouraged to discuss them with your colleagues.



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