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Architecture-Centric Procurement

A presentation from the ninth annual SATURN conference, held in Minneapolis, MN, April 29 - May 3, 2013.

Software Engineering Institute

Topic or Tag


Purchaser: How can I leverage good architectural practices to get the best quality and value from my supplier?

Supplier: What are my customer's expectations from an architectural perspective?

Both: How can we use architecture-centric engineering practices to create a win–win situation?

Software plays a critical role in most modern systems and is often cited as the reason for cost overruns, schedule slippages, and quality problems. Today local, state, and national governmental organizations typically procure systems rather than develop them. A procuring organization needs more effective ways to reduce risk when acquiring software-reliant systems. Similarly, the supplying organization needs to reduce its risk by having more effective ways to understand what the customer really wants to guide the system development.

An architecture-centric procurement approach has proven to be an effective way of reducing risk and gaining added confidence that the system will achieve its intended functional and quality requirements. Such an approach involves incorporating key architecture-centric practices as an integral part of the software procurement and development agreement. This has the effect of raising the performance bar by requiring all potential developers to adopt good architectural practices that will benefit both purchasers and suppliers.

This presentation describes a set of architecture practices and covers why, when, where, and how they can be effectively applied, along with some examples. While we emphasize the U.S. Department of Defense context, the principles apply to broader commercial contexts involving the management of software-intensive projects where there is a purchaser–supplier relationship.

As part of the approach, we use the concept of architecture user stories. These user stories cover practices such as elicitation of the architecturally significant requirements, architecture documentation, architecture evaluation, architecture configuration management, and architecture conformance. These user stories are particularly applicable to any sizable software development effort.

This talk will help

  • acquisition project managers learn how to reduce risk and achieve system qualities by incorporating software architecture-centric practices into their procurements
  • suppliers learn how to increase competitive advantage and focus on what the acquiring customer really needs by understanding the use of software architecture technology in the acquisition and development processes

Attendees will leave with answers to the following questions:

  1. Why should an acquisition organization adopt an architecture-centric acquisition approach? And why does this also benefit the supplying organization?
  2. What architecture-centric practices should be considered? Why, where, when, and how should they be applied?
  3. How does such as approach fit into the procurement and development life cycles?
  4. What is involved in implementing such an approach in a request for proposal, contract, or development agreement?
  5. How can suppliers and acquirers effectively collaborate to produce a win–win situation?

While we use the DoD 5000 life cycle to illustrate many of the principles and practices, we also discuss these steps in terms that apply to a nongovernment procurement life cycle.

This content was created for a conference series or symposium and does not necessarily reflect the positions and views of the Software Engineering Institute.