In today’s times, the federal government is challenged with acquiring and delivering mission capabilities more rapidly and efficiently to a customer base whose needs are constantly evolving. This new paradigm is driven by the rate of change of technologies, methodologies and new adversaries. And it calls for a transformation in how acquisition is performed. There is a need to achieve next-era acquisition performance through a holistic, mission-driven approach that accelerates delivery of value.
So how exactly can the government streamline, improve and move towards the required transformation? As an important first step, by understanding the broader value streams associated with capability acquisition. Every product or service has a value stream. The value stream is comprised of activities in which information and materials flow and functions interact to deliver the desired output. All too often, there is a tendency to jump to implement a state-of the-art solution to fix a targeted problem before understanding how those solutions will operate holistically with underlying methodologies, functions and governance. Solutions that are implemented with this narrow focus may address a localized issue, but often create bottlenecks and pain points in other areas.
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When an enterprise is transforming, unaddressed labor-intensive, inefficient tasks and ineffective communications are further intensified. A broader look, considering all of the aspects of human interaction provides a complete picture and a clearer path forward on how to improve. Therefore, in order to achieve next-era acquisition performance, new acquisition approaches that are more responsive and cost-effective need to be identified, in conjunction with automation and other technologies.
Perspecta recently assisted a government agency to jumpstart its transition towards next-era acquisition by conducting an enterprise-level transformation workshop. Under the direction of Alka Bhave, senior director and mission process transformation expert, Perspecta Inc., the team worked to capture and analyze the end-to-end acquisition approaches utilizing Value Stream Mapping (VSM) techniques. The as-is (current) state of acquisition was captured for multiple program offices. Critical challenges included constant one-off approaches to enable the development of new emerging capabilities using agile and development operations (DevOps) methodologies. While these development methodologies result in faster cycle time, the associated systems engineering artifacts and milestone reviews continued to be based on a traditional waterfall development paradigm. This misalignment, along with many other findings, resulted in inefficiencies and cycle times of up to five years.
Perspecta utilized a two-prong approach to identify improvements— both tactical and incremental as well as strategic and transformational —to achieve increased speed to mission. More than 60 tactical improvements and more than seven radical, evolutionary changes were identified. The team developed a to-be (future) state framework implementing key improvements, including a mission thread approach to development and a clearly defined dual-path process to flexibly support both waterfall and agile approaches. The net result of this holistic analysis was a streamlined future state framework for acquisition that reduces lengthy acquisition cycle times, reduces re-work and increases mission responsiveness.
This approach is broadly applicable to both mission and IT transformations, and provides stakeholders with the necessary insight into how technologies, information, services and people all interact. This insight enables decision makers to make more informed, data-driven decisions on where and how to automate, maximizing speed of value delivery.
In a world of accelerating change, transformation is a required element. But before making the leap to new technologies, an organization’s understanding of its Value Streams is a necessary first step for advancing the entire enterprise.
About the author: Alka Bhave, senior director and mission process transformation expert at Perspecta, Inc. is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, certified PMI PMP, and SAFe Agilist, with extensive experience conducting mission improvement and transformation efforts for intelligence community, defense and civilian government agencies.