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10.6 Transition Strategies

In this section, we identify transition strategies that can help you integrate an open, COTS-based systems approach into your current systems acquisition practices. Use these strategies as a guide for the development of your transition plan.

Before you can make the transition to open, COTS-based systems, you must identify your current situation. This should include examining your existing system, staff, and contractors. Your readiness to make the transition can be evaluated by your answers to a set of questions. These questions assess the qualities of your system, components, and organization that make your project a good (or poor) candidate for open, COTS-based systems. Appendix C, Sample Questions, contains questions you can start with to make your assessment. You may want to add other questions to those suggested by this list, but these are probably the minimum for getting insight into your readiness.

The results of your assessment may indicate that it will be difficult to move aggressively toward open, COTS-based systems. Instead, you may decide to move more slowly, starting with the barriers your assessment revealed. You may not be able to start on an open, COTS-based systems approach immediately, but perhaps you will be able to put some changes in place in the near furure to give you a better prospect for success. Whether you are ready to create a transition plan today or will have to wait for full realization some time in the future, you will need such a plan to see you through the transition. Remember, however, that planning is a continuous process and that the sooner you start, the sooner you will initiate the change in direction of your project.

The first group of transition strategies develops an overall transition strategy and plan. The strategy covers your approach to every aspect of the transition to open, COTS-based systems. The plan identifies revenue sources and contracting strategies. Recruit knowledgeable team members and develop the plan collaboratively.

Government agencies can ask such organizations as the OSJTF for help in planning their transition to open systems. Fewer organizations are available to assist with COTS-based systems questions; look for information from your peers who are succeeding in this new world.

The second group of transition strategies prepares the people in your organization for open, COTS-based systems. Educate your people about open systems and the COTS marketplace in general and about your specific open systems and COTS product plans if any have been formulated. Introduce your people to your approach and to the changes that will affect their jobs.

This preparation also includes identifying a champion for open systems and the use of COTS products. This champion must be a person who understands and supports the move to open, COTS-based systems and has the peer respect and influence to promote the success of the effort. This person (or set of people) need not be in a position of authority; sometimes, a grassroots champion can be more effective than one who has been "crowned" by upper management.

The last group of transition strategies addresses the processes to assist your transition to open, COTS-based systems. In particular, this should include strategies for easing the transition to processes that are new or changed for open, COTS-based systems, such as

  • Identifying and managing your new risks

  • Starting a market research effort

  • Beginning with a pilot project

Other process elements will be suggested by the new approach you adopt.

When you identify your new open, COTS-based risks and plan for them, you can make the transition more easily. Make risk management a defined part of your transition process.

The results of market research provide information about relevant standards, standards-based COTS products, and the historical activities of the major participants in the marketplace. Market research may also be used to keep an eye on technology evolution and new breakthroughs, alerting the project when it looks as though a new technology is ready for serious consideration. The sooner you start your people doing market research, the better positioned you will be to take advantage of the marketplace.

Pilot projects are an effective way to learn about new things without significant risk to your project. Start small, learn from the experience, and then take on greater challenges. In particular, find a small project that is not on the critical path and assign a core group of people to it. Through their experiences, you can better determine how open, COTS-based systems affect your current processes. You can make the necessary changes to those processes and then take on a larger effort with more of your people.

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