Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University
Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

Army's ASSIP Gains Traction with SEI Technologies

Just by looking at the 2008 numbers for ASSIP—the SEI’s partnership with the U.S. Army aimed at improving Army software—you can tell 2008 was a good year for the five-year- old program.

Indeed, at six Army sites more than 300 Army personnel attended 26 SEI courses related to software architecture, acquisition, and other skills during the year. Also, the SEI hosted three exclusive educational conferences for Army leadership on current software issues and developments; about two dozen Army executives attended each, including general officers and civilian members of the Army’s Senior Executive Service.

But the numbers aren’t the real story of the Army Strategic Software Improvement Program’s successes.

“In 2008 we really began to see awareness [of ASSIP] grow,” said Cecilia Albert, who heads up Army programs in the SEI’s Acquisition Support Program. “That’s what was most impressive.” ASSIP, with its mission of ingraining an integrated system and software engineering approach to the Army’s acquisition of the software in its systems, is taking root in the Army’s acquisition establishment, Albert said.

Robert Schwenk, the Army’s senior software acquisition manager, agrees.

“It’s not the numbers,” Schwenk said. “It’s what they signify—ASSIP is succeeding at providing a forum for Army experts to interact with each other, network, and synergize at a leadership level.” That is vitally important to the Army’s acquisition community, Schwenk noted, because as software grows in complexity—and consistent acquisition processes grow in necessity—it is only through sustained interaction among Army software experts that the force will be able to assure that it obtains high-quality and effective software products.

In short, the Army’s software is improving—because ASSIP is helping establish a stronger, more efficient, and more capable software community within the Army itself. That community of professionals is an organic capability that is beginning to deliver on the Army’s strategic needs.

2008 saw continued growth in communication, knowledge sharing, and the trading of software engineering and acquisition lessons learned, Albert said, with meetings every other month of the ASSIP Action Group (AAG). AAG, a group that plans and monitors execution for ASSIP, comprises 11 Army program executive offices (PEOs), four Army software engineering centers, the Army’s chief information officer, and the Army Test and Evaluation Center. The SEI acts as both subject matter experts and facilitators for the sessions.

“We know [ASSIP] is having a positive effect on the Army’s software program,” said Schwenk, “because the PEOs are telling us so. They’re saying ‘this is a worthwhile effort.’ For PEOs carrying ever-growing workloads to seek out and attend the regular AAG meetings and other ASSIP activities speaks strongly to the value ASSIP provides.”

The year also saw a scaling up of the Army’s interest in learning and applying the SEI’s software architecture knowledge through ASSIP. A concerted effort conducted through the SEI helped the Army grow its ranks of software experts trained in the SEI Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM). Army personnel have taken part in about a dozen ATAM evaluations to date. The Army has also seen an added, immediate benefit from the architecture training: The PEOs have used them to reveal software risks early in projects’ lifetimes.

All of this, Albert notes, is fulfilling the four-fold intent of ASSIP: foster migration to model-based system and software acquisition process improvement; institutionalize broad-based oversight, management, and technical expertise; apply an integrated system- and software-engineering approach to Army acquisition; and systematically incorporate lessons learned, best practices, and new technology into policies, practices and processes.

“It is exciting to see the increasing visibility software is getting across the Army through its strong commitment to ASSIP,” Albert said.