Patterns of Success in Systems Engineering: Acquisition of IT-Intensive Government Systems

November 2011
Topics: Acquisition Management
George Rebovich Jr., The MITRE Corporation
Dr. Joseph K. DeRosa, The MITRE Corporation
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The objective of this effort was to discover patterns of success in the systems engineering of information technology (IT)-intensive systems in a government acquisition environment using the method of positive deviance. Thirty government programs were identified, each with some notable success in the acquisition of IT-intensive capabilities. Twelve were selected for extensive follow-up and analysis, including detailed interviews with front-line practitioners who cope with the demands of the government acquisition system and are in a position to influence or observe positive deviance in their environment. This report describes two large-scale success patterns that were observed, each with several recurring sub-patterns. "Balancing the Supply Web" addresses "social" interdependencies among enterprise stakeholders who have different equities in the capability being developed. "Harnessing Technical Complexity" addresses the technical interdependencies among system components that together deliver an operational capability for the enterprise. The large-scale patterns are two sides of the same coin. The programs studied achieved success because of the way they each navigated through these dual interdependencies.

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