search menu icon-carat-right cmu-wordmark

Acquiring Systems, Not Just Software

Created December 2017

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and federal agencies are increasingly acquiring software-intensive systems instead of building them with internal resources. However, acquisition programs frequently have difficulty identifying the critical software acquisition activities, deliverables, risks, and opportunities.

Project Risk Increasing for Software-Reliant Systems

The DoD, federal agencies, allies, and commercial industries depend on software-reliant systems to achieve their missions. However, project risk increases for such systems due to growing complexity in these systems, changing development paradigms (such as Agile methods and app stores), and increasing emphasis on employing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions as a means to save cost and shorten development times.

Applying SEI Expertise to Help Programs Succeed

The SEI works directly with acquisition programs to help them achieve their objectives and reduce software-related project risk. Teams of SEI technical experts work in acquisition environments in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and other DoD and civil agencies, applying SEI products and services in specific contexts.

Acquisition program managers not only must grasp practical business concerns but also understand multiple software topics as diverse as risk identification and mitigation, selection and integration of COTS components, process capability, program management, architecture, survivability, interoperability, source selection, and contract monitoring. The SEI has spent more than two decades compiling a body of knowledge in software acquisition and developing solutions for these topics.

SEI technical experts apply innovative combinations of SEI products and services to assist programs while identifying software acquisition challenges, investigating trends, and developing new solutions. SEI teams apply their expertise to

  • transition technologies and practices to improve DoD software-intensive systems
  • perform diagnostics such as Independent Technical Assessments (ITAs) and Independent Expert Program Reviews (IEPRs)
  • assist with preparing requests for proposals (RFPs) for challenging software acquisition efforts
  • assist with technical evaluations of software aspects of proposals and deliverables
  • develop new software acquisition strategies, technologies, and practices
  • transition technologies and practices to the DoD acquisition community's collaborators
  • review and advise the DoD on acquisition policy related to software-intensive systems

For More Information

Browse our library for information on

Learn More

Toward Successfully Navigating Large-Scale IT Modernization Efforts

March 23, 2017 Presentation
Felix Bachmann, Stephany Bellomo

The authors of this presentation share their experiences developing and putting in place an IT roadmap for a large government organization, resulting in the implementation of an enterprise-wide shared data service....


Open Systems Architectures: When & Where to Be Closed

April 14, 2016 Podcast
Donald Firesmith

Don Firesmith discusses how acquisition professionals and system integrators can apply OSA practices to effectively decompose large, monolithic business and technical architectures into manageable and modular solutions....

learn more

Creating Software Modernization Roadmaps: The Architecture Options Workshop

April 08, 2016 Conference Paper
Neil Ernst, Mary Popeck, Felix Bachmann, Patrick Donohoe

This paper introduces the Architecture Options Workshop, which addresses the problems of moving from identified system risks to potential design...


Effective Reduction of Avoidable Complexity in Embedded Systems

March 18, 2016 Podcast
Julien Delange

Dr. Julien Delange discusses the Effective Reduction of Avoidable Complexity in Embedded Systems (ERACES) project, which aims to identify and remove complexity in software...

learn more

What Happens and How: Analyzing the Results of 13 Acquisition Program Assessments

November 18, 2015 Presentation
William E. Novak, Forrest Shull

This presentation explains a set of recurring dynamics that drive the key high-level findings of independent technical assessments and provides qualitative models of each adverse...


Assuring Open Source Software

February 27, 2014 Podcast
Kate Ambrose, Naomi Anderson, Suzanne Miller

In this podcast, Kate Ambrose Sereno and Naomi Anderson discuss research aimed at developing adoptable, evidence-based, data-driven approaches to evaluating (open source)...

learn more

Data Analytics for Open Source Software Assessment

February 16, 2014 Blog Post
Kate Ambrose

This blog post will discuss research aimed at developing adoptable, evidence-based, data-driven approaches to evaluating (open source)...