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2015 Trend Forecast – Acquisition and Program Management

2015 TRENDSWhat emerging or continuing trends will dominate the next 12 months or more in federal acquisition and program management? Our Integrity experts each forecast one top trend for 2015 – cybersecurity, workforce development, requirements development, contracts standardization & IT acquisition innovation.

Let’s begin with an issue once again in the news this week – how to handle the growing number of cyber threats against federal agencies.


McAfee Labs recently provided its 2015 Threats Predictions in a November 2014 Threats Report.  The report suggests an integrated cyber environment where Government and Private Sector entities will have to protect and detect; deter and defend against “new attack surfaces in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT), and increasingly sophisticated cyber espionage capabilities, including techniques capable of evading sandboxing detection technologies.”

As dire as McAfee Labs’ 2015 Threat Predictions appear, the old adage “challenges create opportunities” applies.  The challenges of cyber defense and cyber espionage cannot or should not be left to the traditional IT community alone to resolve.  Cyber threats are part of a new, dynamic reality facing the whole of the nation, and it will take an integrated team of IT Professionals, Privacy Lawyers, Contracting Officers, Program Managers, Acquisition Managers and Subject Matter Experts from across the spectrum to prepare for, mitigate and respond to the challenges. In this increasingly interconnected world, this is a challenge that will affect all levels of society – individuals, families, businesses, and governments. Companies will find 2015 to be ripe with opportunities to build, buy or sell cyber defense products and services.

Trend 2: Strategic Acquisition Workforce Development – Thomas Colangelo, Senior Program Analyst

Workforce development involves recruiting, training, development, and retention. It is an on-going function that over time has lacked consistency, waxing and waning based on the dynamics of the acquisition environment, workforce demographics, leadership attention, fiscal constraints, and personnel policies.

Despite considerable resources expended on programs to develop and professionalize personnel within acquisition, functional competence has not progressed substantially since the early efforts following enactment of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA). Arguably, it took a step backward with the emphasis placed on obtaining multiple functional certifications and the subsequent diminishment of training and certification requirements.

In 2015 and over the next few years, I see a renewed emphasis on workforce development that, hopefully, takes a strategic approach, refocuses on restoring functional competence and capability, and embraces effective succession planning based on a differentiated leadership development model. While personnel policies may tend to impede such efforts, not doing so will continue to waste precious fiscal resources and adversely impact organizational leadership and efficient/effective mission accomplishment.

Trend 3: Requirements Management as a component of Project Management – Dan Altobelli, Project Manager

Both private industry and the federal government recognize the challenges to successfully delivering a new capability on time and on cost when there are issues attributed to the requirements. And these unsuccessful programs and projects are increasingly finding their way to the executive suite as industry profit margins and defense budget allocations tighten.

The Project Management Institute issued a Pulse of the Profession ® In-Depth Report on Requirements Management, calling it a core competency for project and program success. PMI said inaccurate requirements management is a primary cause of projects not meeting original goals and objectives in 47% of those instances. Industry wastes 5.1% of funds expended on projects due to poor requirements management. To address this problem, organizations must focus more attention on three critical areas to improve requirements management capabilities: people, processes, and culture.

National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) recommendations to the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services speak to: increased authority and direct accountability by senior leaders in the Defense Department; a tighter linkage between acquisition, budget and requirements processes; and better management of both civilian and military acquisition workforces.

Better Buying Power 3.0 released by Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, also addresses cultural and process challenges in improving the DoD acquisition system.

The message is clear – senior leadership understands the very real impact on the bottom line caused by inefficient or ineffective requirements management and will be placing higher emphasis on this in the future.

Trend 4: Efficiency through Standardized Contract Development & Management – Cynthia Zieman, Acting Regional Manager

With a government acquisition workforce straining to do the same level of effort with fewer people, leveraging or establishing standardization in developing solicitations and managing contracts will be a focus in 2015 and beyond. Large and small agencies recognize the benefit of utilizing standard solicitation templates and checklists, housed in a central repository which also includes data on awarded contracts, renewal/expiration dates, and Statements of Work. Getting there could be a daunting task, but is necessary to ensure the government’s missions are accomplished on time and efficiently.

Standardization allows seasoned and new Contracting Officers and Contracts Specialists flexibility to tailor contracts to their particular project, but avoids the need to reinvent the proverbial “wheel” each and every time. In this case, the “wheel” is the solicitation/contract document.  A central repository of contracts and solicitations with pertinent financial and contract data is essential to manage contracts and pull data for future requirements.  The investment it takes to plan and implement standardization, and a central repository of detailed acquisition and contract data, is well worth the end result — government efficiency through contract development and management.

Trend 5: Innovation in IT Acquisition and Program/Project Management – Mike Ipsaro, Technical Director

In this time of tight budgets, the need for innovation across many areas, including IT acquisition, is greater than ever. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), 26% of major IT Investment Programs (which comprise 32% of IT Budget) are “mismanaged” (defined as duplication and cost overruns). Undoubtedly, many of these cost overruns are related to schedule overruns, often caused by challenges relating to change. An inability to adapt to change leads many digital services to poor outcomes, such as unmet user expectations or unused or unusable features.

Some recent tools offer new and stimulating alternatives to drive innovation. These evolving tools include TechFAR Digital Services Playbook and Innovative Contracting Case Studies.  I predict greater use of these tools in acquiring IT in 2015.  Also, I could see more application of some of these IT-centric methods even applied to the acquisition and contracting fields themselves.  For example, Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) adopting agile and scrum methods to create more streamlined, complete, and efficient acquisition documentation such as requirements documents and acquisition plans.

Your Forecast

Do you agree with our forecast? What emerging trends are you seeing in acquisition and program management? We hope you’ll share your perspective.  Plus, check back with Integrity Matters for future posts on these and other topics.