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Introduction to CMMI for Acquisition: Guidelines for Improving the Acquisition of Products and Services

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This chapter introduces CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ), which enables organizations to avoid or eliminate barriers in the acquisition process through practices and terminology that transcend the interests of individual departments or groups.
This chapter is from the book

Now more than ever, organizations are increasingly becoming acquirers1 of needed capabilities by obtaining products and services from suppliers and developing less and less of these capabilities in-house. This widely adopted business strategy is designed to improve an organization's operational efficiencies by leveraging suppliers' capabilities to deliver quality solutions rapidly, at lower cost, and with the most appropriate technology.

Acquisition of needed capabilities is challenging because acquirers have overall accountability for satisfying the end user while allowing the supplier to perform the tasks necessary to develop and provide the solution.

Mismanagement, the inability to articulate customer needs, poor requirements definition, inadequate supplier selection and contracting processes, insufficient technology selection procedures, and uncontrolled requirements changes are factors that contribute to project failure. Responsibility is shared by both the supplier and the acquirer. The majority of project failures could be avoided if the acquirer learned how to properly prepare for, engage with, and manage suppliers.

In addition to these challenges, an overall key to a successful acquirer–supplier relationship is communication.

Unfortunately, many organizations have not invested in the capabilities necessary to effectively manage projects in an acquisition environment. Too often acquirers disengage from the project once the supplier is hired. Too late they discover that the project is not on schedule, deadlines will not be met, the technology selected is not viable, and the project has failed.

The acquirer has a focused set of major objectives. These objectives include the requirement to maintain a relationship with end users to fully comprehend their needs. The acquirer owns the project, executes overall project management, and is accountable for delivering the product or service to the end users. Thus, these acquirer responsibilities can extend beyond ensuring the product or service is delivered by chosen suppliers to include activities such as integrating the overall product or service, ensuring it makes the transition into operation, and obtaining insight into its appropriateness and adequacy to continue to meet customer needs.

CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ) enables organizations to avoid or eliminate barriers in the acquisition process through practices and terminology that transcend the interests of individual departments or groups.

CMMI-ACQ contains 22 process areas. Of those process areas, 16 are core process areas that cover Process Management, Project Management, and Support process areas.2

Six process areas focus on practices specific to acquisition, addressing agreement management, acquisition requirements development, acquisition technical management, acquisition validation, acquisition verification, and solicitation and supplier agreement development.

All CMMI-ACQ model practices focus on the activities of the acquirer. Those activities include supplier sourcing; developing and awarding supplier agreements; and managing the acquisition of capabilities, including the acquisition of both products and services. Supplier activities are not addressed in this document. Suppliers and acquirers who also develop products and services should consider using the CMMI-DEV model.

About Process Improvement

In its research to help organizations to develop and maintain quality products and services, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has found several dimensions that an organization can focus on to improve its business. Figure 1.1 illustrates the three critical dimensions that organizations typically focus on: people, procedures and methods, and tools and equipment.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The Three Critical Dimensions

What holds everything together? It is the processes used in your organization. Processes allow you to align the way you do business. They allow you to address scalability and provide a way to incorporate knowledge of how to do things better. Processes allow you to leverage your resources and to examine business trends.

This is not to say that people and technology are not important. We are living in a world where technology is changing at an incredible speed. Similarly, people typically work for many companies throughout their careers. We live in a dynamic world. A focus on process provides the infrastructure and stability necessary to deal with an ever-changing world and to maximize the productivity of people and the use of technology to be competitive.

Manufacturing has long recognized the importance of process effectiveness and efficiency. Today, many organizations in manufacturing and service industries recognize the importance of quality processes. Process helps an organization's workforce to meet business objectives by helping them to work smarter, not harder, and with improved consistency. Effective processes also provide a vehicle for introducing and using new technology in a way that best meets the business objectives of the organization.

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