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    Part 3: Software Development Life Cycle — The Solution Design

Part 3: Software Development Life Cycle — The Solution Design

The Solution Design stage begins upon Customer and stakeholder approval of the System Requirements Review (SRR) and its associated artifacts. Solution Design is specific to Scrum projects only. Design is not typically required for Kanban process cycles involving Problem Reports and smaller “break-fix” tasks. Partnet’s Solution Design stage consists of two elements: functional design and technical design.

Functional Design: User stories form the basis for functional design and planning. User stories are short, textual statements corresponding to a specific feature or business need that the software solution must fulfill. Requirement Managers write user stories based on the approved solution requirements. During functional design, user-story reviews are convened with members of the Delivery Team to formally discuss each user story in detail and specify its acceptance criteria. All outstanding questions and assumptions are documented for follow-up with the Customer and other external stakeholders. User stories are then allocated into specific development tasks and subtasks that constitute the Product Backlog.

Technical Design: In parallel with user-story reviews, our development and engineering group prepares the technical design solution. Aspects of the technical design include:

Analysis of necessary changes to the general solution architecture.
Review new interfaces for third parties.
Protection of system security posture.
Identification of required hardware components, operating systems, and network architecture.
Research supporting software technologies and libraries.
Determination of necessary changes to the data model(s).

Partnet convenes an internal design review to collect and incorporate final feedback on the designed solution from Software Developers, Test Engineers, Configuration Managers, Project Managers, security specialists, and support staff. This review focuses on specific items affecting the solution design, such as:

Ensuring the design minimizes development and maintenance costs.
Identifying opportunities for business-user configuration (i.e., administrative utilities that allow the Customer to configure and manage the software without new […]

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    Part 2: Software Development Life Cycle — Incorporating New and Emerging Requirements

Part 2: Software Development Life Cycle — Incorporating New and Emerging Requirements

Partnet’s development team understands that requirements are volatile by nature and are inevitably subject to change during the course of development. New and emerging requirements often occur as the result of unforeseen constraints, capability gaps, user implications, or newly-identified stakeholders. Our Agile methodologies provide the flexibility required to quickly and responsibly react to such changes without putting other priorities at risk.

New and emerging requirements should be presented to the Partnet development team by the customer in the form of a new or updated functional specification. Our Requirement Managers follow industry best practices to thoroughly assess all new requirements. Careful business analysis is performed to:

Determine any impacts to the existing system.
Identify the best implementation approach.
Mitigate risk to the customer and end users.

Upon identification of a new requirement, Partnet will work with the customer to define business objectives and desired outcomes. Requirement Managers will carefully assess the new requirement against the deployed defined or existing solution to:

Identify capability gaps.
Assess impact to current functionality.
Identify affected stakeholders.
Identify transition requirements.
Document risks and constraints.

Partnet Requirement Managers will present this assessment in the System Requirements Review (SRR). The SRR will document the stated, unapproved requirements along with a recommended implementation approach. Also, the Partnet Project Manager will identify the estimated cost and time necessary to implement the new requirement. Once the additional cost and time are approved by the customer, Partnet will follow its standard requirement procedures elicit, refine, and formalize the solution requirements. Requirement Managers thoroughly maintain requirements traceability to ensure that substantive changes are documented and versioned as new requirements are incorporated into the designed solution.

Partnet expects the customer to be a key stakeholder in the gathering and approval of all requirements—including new and emerging requirements. Consequently, the customer […]

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    Part 1: The Importance of a Defined Software Development Life Cycle

Part 1: The Importance of a Defined Software Development Life Cycle

I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is for a company to have a well-defined process for the Software Development Life Cycle, or SDLC as we like to call it. I’m going to do a series a blogs to share our SLDC process.

Partnet’s SDLC employs industry-best practices in accordance with Agile principles and methods. Our approach ensures that the right product is delivered in the required time frame, while providing visibility into the solution’s development. As part of our Agile Development approach, we employ both Scrum and Kanban methodologies.

Partnet’s SLDC is a multistage process. The first step in the SDLC is to make sure that each development projects start with stable, well-defined requirements. Our Requirement Managers use industry-best requirement management practices as defined by the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK).

The requirements manager coordinates and schedules requirements gathering activities with each stakeholder group. These activities may take the form of interviews, video teleconferences, requirement workshops, questionnaires, or other forms of outreach. In some cases, multiple rounds of requirements gathering activities may be required as the results are documented and consolidated.

This step ends with the preparation of a formal requirements package. The requirements package describes desired outcome(s), assumptions, and constraints associated to a given business requirement. A requirements package may be presented in any number of formats, including but not limited to:

Functional specifications
Screen mockups and page wire frames
Flowcharts, sequence diagrams, data flow diagrams and other visual models
Data dictionary
Use cases and scenarios
User Roles
Goal or desired outcome
Benefit to the customers and stakeholders

The Partnet team completes the Requirements Step by meeting with the customer and other stakeholders to conduct a formal System Requirements Review. This involves distribution of the requirements package(s) for stakeholder approval. Signatures are collected […]

Better Buying Power 3.0 – More Emphasis on Best Value

Best value is often described as the tradeoff between cost and performance that provides the greatest overall benefit. However, the word tradeoff to some may imply that one must either sacrifice cost to increase performance or sacrifice performance to reduce cost. Partnet prefers to define best value as the optimal blend of quality and performance delivered at the lowest possible cost and in the least amount of time.

It appears that Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics agrees with us on our best value definition. In a white paper published on September 19, 2014, Mr. Kendall says that Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0 continues with a shift in emphasis toward achieving dominant capabilities through innovation and technical excellence.

Although overall cost continues to be a concern for the DOD, BBP 3.0 puts a strong emphasis on innovation. A series of new initiatives are listed below under the topic of Incentivize Innovation in Industry and Government:

Increase the use of prototyping and experimentation.
Emphasize technology insertion and refresh in program planning.
Use Modular Open Systems Architecture to stimulate innovation.
Increase the return on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR).
Provide draft technical requirements to industry and involve industry in funded concept definition to support requirements definition.
Provide clear “best value” definitions so that industry can propose and DOD can choose wisely.
Increase small business participation, including more effective use of market research.

As a small business we appreciate the acknowledgement that we an important part of the DOD Acquisition Cycle. As stated in the white paper, “Small businesses remain one of DOD’s most productive sources of innovation — in services as well as in products.”

3 Things I’ve Learned Since Joining the Private Sector

Many of my friends and colleagues are still “on the inside,” as in working for the Federal Government as civilian employees. I took the plunge 18 months ago; I retired and went to work in the private sector. This blog post is for my friends and colleagues who may be thinking about doing the same thing. I’ve got some points I’d like for you to consider that reach beyond the obvious.

1. You must stay informed. When working for the Federal Government, as long as you know the chain of command in your organization, the goals and objectives set by the organization, and the informal power structure therein, you really don’t have to pay too much attention to the larger world. If policies change the policy people will tell you – and even they have to be in touch with only their assigned area of responsibility. Sure, you are more effective if you continually survey the entire landscape, but you don’t necessarily have to do this.

In the private sector nobody tells you when to pay attention. Reading news articles, participating in LinkedIn discussion groups, monitoring trade journals is something you have to do now as part of your daily work habits. Suddenly it’s all about what you know that’s new in addition to who or what you know.

2. The bottom line is real and you must contribute. As a civil servant I worked hard to stay within budget for my projects. But truth be told, when unforeseen issues or needs arose, there was always money somewhere to bridge the gap. You do need skills such as anticipation, persuasiveness, and passion to get the available money before somebody else does, but somehow there’s always a way […]

Communicating with the Government Round-Up

Last month my colleague Gabrielle Zimmerman wrote a two-part blog series on Communicating with the Government. I put it out for discussion on LinkedIn asking for people’s experience with communicating with government and learned a lot.

B2G Communication Mismatch

Business-to-Government has experienced a few bumps in the road over the past year: the GSA conference scandal, the Sequester restriction on training and travel budgets, the government program office’s reluctance to speak with industry, and now the government shut down. Indeed so much has happened in government over the last year to increase the challenge of B2G communications that I’d be hard-pressed to list it all. The folks over at Market Connections Inc and Boscobel Marketing Communications have published a white paper which sheds some light on the communication dilemma we are facing today and discusses the apparent mismatch of how industry and the government plan to communicate with each other under the current budget constraints. Let’s discuss some of the more interesting points they’ve presented.

The Difficulties of Talking to Your Government Customer

Seventy-two percent of agencies plan to attend fewer conferences and 57% say they will be hosting fewer conferences. Contractors are in step with these results with 50% stating they will attend fewer conferences. Government participants stated they would be turning more to webinars, reading publications in their field, and reviewing websites to gain knowledge. Contractors plan to have more personal discussions with government personnel in addition to updating their websites and producing white papers and case studies. The biggest discrepancy was in the area of face-to-face visits. Of contractors, 68% said they would try to do more face-to-face visits, while only 19% of government said they planned to do the same. This might explain why it is so hard to get an appointment to meet with government personnel.

A silver lining does appear in the findings however, especially for small businesses. Increased use of social media and website reviews by government personnel will make […]

By |October 28th, 2013|General|0 Comments|

Government Contracting: Why Size Matters

Think about small businesses in government contracting when you’re looking for support on big projects.

SB2G – Using Simplified Acquisition to Raise Small Business Goals

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Part 13, lays out a variety of purchasing methods collectively known as simplified acquisition to facilitate Government buyers in acquiring supplies and services.

Congress Trying to Raise Small Business goals, but SB Success Rates are Down

The House version of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) recommends raising the Small business goals to 25%. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), along with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, introduced the Small Business Goaling Act (S. 3213) on May 22. It would raise the annual prime contracting goal by 2 percentage points, from 23 percent of contract dollars spent with small businesses to 25 percent. It also would raise agency subcontracting goals for small businesses from 35.9 percent to 40 percent.

The bill would also put the onus of succeeding at the contracting goals on the senior executives at an agency. Evaluators would have to consider in their performance how they did in meeting the contracting goals. The goals would become another factor in evaluations, along with productivity, efficiency and meeting affirmative action goals.

However, a survey conducted by American Express in 2011 found that it was increasingly hard for Small Business to get a government contract. The survey found that Small Business are having to spend an estimated 21% more in 2011 to compete for a government contract and succeeding  less.  As the average total investment made in seeking federal contracts has risen over the past year, bidding activity has declined by nearly half – both in prime and subcontracting activity. The average success rates for active small business contracts in both prime and subcontracting have declined as well – pointing to a more competitive and tighter environment.

Small business bring a number of advantages to the Government including lower overhead, more flexibility with ever changing requirements and increased innovation. As the saying goes, “A smaller ship is easier to turn.”  Also Small Business usually have fewer clients and therefore are more dedicated to […]

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