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10.3 Schedule

Managers can expect schedule changes owing to an open systems or COTS-based approach. Many of the schedule factors parallel the cost factors we just discussed; for example, initial system activities are likely to require more money and more time.

When you are planning, be aware of how decisions early in the process affect milestones later in the process. Expect that initial system activities will likely be slower, system design may be faster, getting component implementations may be much faster, and taking supportability into account may slow down the early schedule.

For government managers, acquisition is governed by many laws and regulations, some of which have not caught up with the paradigm shift. Regulations, especially those dealing with the use of COTS products, are still changing and can create an unstable situation that contributes to the frustrations and schedule delays you may experience.

Although the use of open, COTS-based systems is spreading rapidly, it is not yet universally accepted. Even if it were, not everyone knows how to function and to succeed in the new context. (This is particularly true in the government—after all, government contractors are as accustomed to being told what to do as government managers are to telling them what to do!) Some possible schedule concerns follow.

  • No single, coherent marketplace provides products for all the technologies that are of interest to you. Instead, the overall marketplace is really a union of several separate market segments. Schedule impacts include market research activities and possible longer integration time.

  • There are not necessarily standards or standards-based COTS products for all the things you might need. Examples of robust marketplaces for standards-based products include POSIX-conformant operating systems and TCP/IP-conformant network components, but other specialties are not so well supported.

    All these conditions may have schedule impacts, as it may take longer and be more difficult to achieve certain program goals.

Taking these conditions into account may seem overwhelming at first. But the good news is that most project managers have had to use standards in the past, and many are probably using some COTS products right now: compilers, commercial hardware, text editors and publishing software, spreadsheets, and so on. Approaching systems from an open, COTS-based systems perspective may not be so foreign to you, even though you may not feel prepared for the sheer magnitude of the effort when standards and COTS products are the primary elements of the system.

Industry managers have been using COTS products for years and have also participated in standards organizations or have experience using de facto standards. In some respects, using an open, COTS-based approach is something that industry managers have more experience doing than most government managers do. In both cases, they may tend to confuse a COTS-based approach with an open systems one (see Table 7.1).

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