Analysis work by the SEI on data collected from more than 100
Independent Technical Assessments (ITAs) of software-reliant acquisition
programs has produced insights into the most common ways that programs
encounter difficulties. Programs regularly experience recurring cost,
quality failures, and progress and outcomes often appear to be
unpredictable and unmanageable. Furthermore, many acquisition leaders
and staffers neither recognize these recurring issues nor realize that
known solutions exist for many of these problems.
In this area of work, the SEI is trying to mitigate the effects of
misaligned acquisition program organizational incentives and adverse
software-reliant acquisition structural dynamics by improving program
staff decision making. To do this, we are modeling and analyzing both
the adverse acquisition dynamics that we have encountered in actual
programs, as well as candidate solutions to resolve those dynamics.
Building on past work with acquisition archetypes that present
qualitative models of adverse acquisition dynamics, we are now building
executable system dynamics models, which allow those behaviors to be
analyzed and validated. Potential solutions are then constructed and
connected to the problem model, allowing us to evaluate the ability of
each approach to mitigate the dynamic.
Ultimately, the objective is not only to assess the relative merits of
different solution approaches and identify those that perform best, but
to develop interactive acquisition simulations that offer acquisition
practitioners the chance to "learn by doing." This involves recognizing,
experiencing, and resolving complex acquisition dynamics in the
classroom, rather than during the development of mission-critical
By improving program decision making, we can help programs overcome
counterproductive behaviors that stem from misaligned incentives and
underlying dynamics, and thus deploy higher-quality systems to the field
in a more timely and cost-effective manner.
About the Speaker
William Novak is a senior member of the technical staff at the SEI. He is a
researcher, consultant, and instructor in the acquisition and
development of software-reliant systems.
Novak has more than 25 years of experience with real-time embedded
software product development, government acquisition, and business
management. Prior to coming to the SEI, he worked at GTE, GE Corporate
Research and Development, GE Aerospace, and Texas Instruments. His
technical background includes research and development work in software
engineering, development environments, software reuse, and digital
Novak has received a Master of Science in Computer Engineering from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Bachelor of Science in Computer
Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.