Requirements set the foundation of an acquisition program. They must be clearly defined, realistic, affordable, and testable. Given the rapidly changing pace of operations, technologies, and threats, DoD cannot afford to spend two years authoring and coordinating JCIDS documents to lock down requirements for a decade or more.
Effectively scoping a program, increment, or release is a critical element to being able to deliver capabilities in a timely manner. Far too many programs attempt to do too much at once which risks delivering any capabilities. The key is to scope the work that leverages mature technologies, is affordable within the available budget, and can realistically be delivered within the desired/needed timelines. To help meet expected delivery dates, some degree of flexibility is needed in the requirements. The operational command or business unit should convey requirements via high level objectives for the acquiring organization to deliver as much capability as possible based on budgets, schedules, risks, and other factors.
The old adage: “Perfect is the enemy of good” applies to program scope and requirements; it’s better to have an 80% solution today than risk the entire program trying to get it perfect. If your program is under pressure to deliver sooner, ask yourself: What functionality could be removed or deferred and still achieve the desired outcomes? If you effectively scope the program and manage requirements as outlined below, you should be able to regularly deliver capabilities.
- The smaller the scope (and requirements document), the faster the delivery – 80% solution today!
- Don’t overly define the solution – Operational sponsors outline high level objectives
- Empower “product owner” to set vision, shape requirements, and actively collaborate with users, acquirers, developers
- Lower level requirements require flexibility to be responsive to changing operations, threats, risks, performance, and budgets
- Requirements for current release should leverage only mature technologies and/or COTS solutions
Develop a first MVP ASAP!
The smallest possible product that is valuable, usable, and feasible. An MVP is a production-quality item (i.e. a Viable Product) with a constrained feature set (Minimum).
Activate the Stormdrain
Stormdraining is a reductive-style acceleration tool that helps teams reduce a large collection of ideas to a smaller, more manageable, more impactful set.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
Structure the delivery of systems or services of the full envisioned scope in a series of multiple iterations.
Open the Requirements Umbrella
DoD organizations should consider authoring Portfolio ICDs and Capstone Requirements to cover a broad mission or capability area rather than that of a single program.
Manage Dynamic Backlogs of Requirements
As an alternative to lengthy, static requirements documents, programs should manage requirements via user stories and a dynamic set of backlogs.
Engage Your Users Regularly
A close partnership between users and materiel developers is critical to the success of acquisition programs.
- Modernizing DoD’s Requirements: Enabling Speed, Agility, and Innovation, Apr 2020
- Section 809 Panel, Volume III, Part 1, Recommendations 39, 40, Jan 2019
- JCIDS Manual, Aug 2018
- CJCSI 5123.01H, Aug 2018
- Section 809 Panel, Volume II Report, Requirements Management section pp. 52-60, Jun 2018
- Agile Requirements, MITRE’s AiDA
- Are You Solving the Right Problems, Harvard Business Review, Feb 2017
- How the Army Ought to Write Requirements, Lt Col Thomas Holland, Nov 2017