The Department of Defense (DoD) has spent billions of dollars annually to either modernize existing business systems or procure new business systems, yielding uneven results. The milestones, models and documentation driven through the traditional DoD acquisition process have not provided a flexible enough structure for managing business systems. And, in practice, tailoring for a business system has often taken more time and effort than the benefits it produced.
History has shown that:
Unfortunately, many of these challenges are not new. In 1995, the General Accounting Office (renamed in 2004 as the Government Accountability Office [GAO]) designated the DoD’s multibillion-dollar business systems modernization program as high risk, and it has been on the GAO’s high-risk list ever since. In 2015, GAO added to the list Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations, recognizing that “federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes.” Acquiring defense business systems (e.g., health care, finance, contracting, human resources, logistics, and training) are obviously quite different than acquiring weapon systems (e.g., Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, nuclear aircraft carrier, or a tank), as shown in Table 1. DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.02’s milestones, models and documentation did not provide the proper structure for managing business systems. And, in practice, tailoring for a business system often took too much time and effort, making it hard to justify the benefits produced.
A New Development Approach
Recognizing these uneven results and the unique nature of Defense Business Systems, Congress in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD[AT&L]), the Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO), and the DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO) to collaborate on a new requirements, acquisition and investment review process for business systems.
The USD(AT&L), DCMO, and DoD CIO viewed the FY 2016 NDAA requirement as an opportunity to build a framework to resolve discrepancies and other challenges between acquisition policy in DoDI 5000.02 and DCMO guidance on business systems requirements and the investment review process. A team of subject-matter experts (SMEs) from across the DoD gathered and determined that a new business systems process must:
The team’s work culminated in the business capability acquisition cycle (BCAC) process and supporting policy in the form of the DoDI 5000.75, approved for release on Feb. 2, 2017, by the USD(AT&L), DCMO, and the DoD’s CIO. The purpose of the BCAC is to rapidly deploy business capabilities which address identified mission and capability needs within approved cost, schedule and performance parameters. The BCAC addresses in part past recommendations by the Defense Science Board and requirements of Section 804 of Public Law (P.L.) 111-84 to establish a new acquisition process for information technology.
BCAC Process Overview
As shown in Figure 1, the BCAC has five phases and is intended to be cyclical and flexible with steps repeating as necessary to drive more rapid achievement of intended outcome(s). The BCAC implements a governance and management structure; assigns responsibilities of the functional and acquisition communities; provides direction for the identification of business needs, development of capability requirements and supporting IT; and introduces continuous improvement as part of ongoing business capability support.The linear version of the BCAC is shown in Figure 2 and reflects phases with associated decision points. The process steps, decision points, and roles and responsibilities affiliated with each BCAC step and decision are detailed in DoDI 5000.75.Finally, Figure 3 summarizes key activities in each of the cycle’s phases. The BCAC unifies existing processes for business systems into one policy as directed by DoDI 5000.75. The BCAC enables users to more quickly implement capabilities by emphasizing the importance of results rather than static documentation. The defense business systems investment review process implements Title 10 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 2222 and involves an approval of funds certification. This process is intended to enable the management of a well-defined IT investment portfolio for the DoD Business Mission Area (BMA) by enforcing the business enterprise architecture (BEA), business process reengineering (BPR), and portfolio management. The investment review process is integrated into the BCAC with appropriate decision makers (depending on the level of the program) participating throughout. The first certification to allow the obligation of funds will occur at the Acquisition Authority to Proceed (ATP). The Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA), or Subtitle III of Title 40, U.S.C., applies to all IT investments, including National Security Systems (NSS). One BCAC benefit is its streamlining of traditionally duplicative CCA confirmation processes. The intent is that any requirement for CCA confirmation is validated during existing BCAC processes, eliminating the need for a separate CCA review.
Guiding BCAC Principles
In the BCAC, success and readiness to move to the next phase will be measured on a “team” basis by acquisition, functional and IT professionals to streamline decision making and allow a quicker transition between phase activities. The BCAC focuses on the following core Guiding Principles to enable success:
What’s So Different?
The biggest differences from the previous state of practice for business systems operating under the DoDI 5000.02 and supporting guidance and now operating under the BCAC are that it:
Keys to Implementation Success
The following section provides keys to success that are leveraged from industry research and support the BCAC guiding principles, further enhancing the driving factors that enable BCAC users to successfully execute the process.
Continuous process improvement is a way of life. Therefore, actively manage business processes throughout the life cycle to ensure they can be adapted and optimized. And remember that continuous process and systems improvements also occur after the go-live stage.
Try before you buy. Conduct use case demonstrations, pilots and prototypes prior to acquisition. Use market research, analysis and ratings to narrow viable options in advance. Leverage domain expertise and know the Art of the Possible.
Manage the change. Know your customer—the organization, culture and people. Involve end users throughout the project. Tailor development and deployment strategies to fit the culture and the product. Understand that commonly used methods—such as agile development and cloud—are gaining traction.
Embrace the COTS/Government OTS mindset. Minimize customization and ensure vigorous change control governance. Only customize if there is an advantage or efficiency to be gained. Focus COTS testing on integration points and enhancements.
As the DoD transitions to this new approach for business systems requirements and acquisition, lessons will be learned, best practices adopted and a body of knowledge and experience will emerge. Under the sponsorship of the DCMO, DoD CIO, and USD(AT&L), a community of practice has been established to serve the workforce as its authoritative source for guidance, advice and information regarding the successful acquisition of a business system or capability and application of the BCAC. See https://www.milsuite.mil/book/groups/bcaccommunity for additional information.
Dewey DuHadway is a member of the staff of the Office of the Department of Defense (DoD) Deputy Chief Management Officer, he can be reached at email@example.com.
Howard Harris is a professor of Acquisition Program Management at the San Diego Campus of the Defense Acquisition University, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Merker and Craig Smith are staff members of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, Cyber and Business Systems, they can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
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