Definition

The Definition phase begins with documentation of the Project Vision and ends when the vision has been converted into an Initial Project Scope document.

Best Practices

Generally, the project vision materializes from an observation, directive or hypothesis.

Observations may be internal or external. Internal observations may include unacceptable performance against key performance indicators or simply unhappy customers. External observations may come from knowledge of other organizations that outperform the observer’s in some way, industry benchmarks, trade shows or vendor presentations.

Directives may be the result of process or system non-compliance. For example a legacy system may be in a state of disrepair and no longer maintainable. In this case the organization is compelled to change. These objectives are also referred to as “burning platforms”.

A hypothesis is an educated guess that a project investment will result in an acceptable return.


Project Vision:

Buyers frequently lead this project phase with niche expertise provided by vendors as needed; conversely, in subsequent phases, buyers will probably want a vendor to lead the effort with support from the buyer (to take full advantage of the vendor’s capabilities and enable risk transfer).At this time, the project vision is directional, subject to subsequent adjustment, validation and detail. This phase is more entrepreneurial than scientific. The science comes later.


Project Scope:

Once the Project Vision Template is complete, it is refined and further detailed in an Initial Project Scope Template. This document describes the project vision in the context of a COTS project and COTS solution so that candidate solution providers can propose their solutions. This phase may include site visits to peers, vendor references, vendor solution demonstrations and engagement of agnostic consultants.

Vendor Sourcing

The vendor sourcing tool has been developed to provide program managers and buyers a methodology to identify potential vendors based on the phase of the project and the results of the Needs Analysis Questionnaire. Key qualifications for vendors during the Definition phase include:

  • Expert understanding of COTS capabilities across all candidate COTS vendors (could be one or more COTS vendors under consideration at this time);
  • Expertise in gaps identified in the Needs Analysis questionnaire;
  • Use of industry standard methodologies so that work can be reused in subsequent phases by other vendors;
  • Strong references including comparable size and scope projects;
  • Positive experience in DoD, and expert knowledge of any non-standard requirements.

Pricing

Guidance is provided below for each type of pricing model for the services that may be required in this phase/track. In addition, a pricing tool is available to government personnel with authorization.

Fixed Price Task Orders

Used when there is a well-defined scope and requirements; objective, measureable duties of the parties; and high reliance on the vendor is sought (possibly due to limited in-house expertise with the COTS solution). Additionally, there should be multiple reference projects that are similar enough in size, scope and timeline so as to validate the fixed price proposals. Projects that will rely primarily on out-of-the-box COTS capabilities and conform to proven COTS methodologies are good candidates for fixed price task orders.

Advantage Disadvantages
  • Maximize risk transfer to vendors
  • Maximize leverage of vendor expertise
  • Scope defined early in the project - high confidence in budget
  • Buyer duties clearly defined - risk of buyer default
  • Vendors build in contingency to pricing, may not be the lowest price
  • Vendor leading the project, buyer must comply
  • High reliance on a single vendor, more difficult to supplement or replace vendors
  • Least flexibility during the project - delivering to the original plan

Time-and-Materials Task Orders

Used when scope and requirements are not clearly, objectively defined; strong in-house capabilities/competencies enable the buyer team to lead the project; or buyer duties or dependencies across multiple vendors present a high risk of default.

Advantage Disadvantages
  • High flexibility during the project, better enables iterative or agile methodologies if a high degree of extensions is unavoidable
  • Buyer stays in control of the project
  • Reduced dependence on single vendor, vendor may be supplemented or replaced if needed
  • Lower budget confidence early in the project
  • Budget risk retained by buyer
  • Higher pressure to deliver on buyer team
  • Generally higher risk, buyer teams typically less qualified (vendors do this for a living)

Cost-reimbursement Task Orders

This method has the same advantages and disadvantages as Time-and-Materials. However, in this model, the full cost risk is borne by the Government. This can be used in cases where negotiation of rates is unlikely to yield better hourly pricing.

Advantage Disadvantages
  • High flexibility during the project, better enables iterative or agile methodologies if a high degree of extensions is unavoidable
  • Buyer stays in control of the project
  • Reduced dependence on single vendor, vendor may be supplemented or replaced if needed
  • Lower budget confidence early in the project
  • Budget risk retained by buyer
  • Higher pressure to deliver on buyer team
  • Generally higher risk, buyer teams typically less qualified (vendors do this for a living)

For a discussion on contracting options select Contract Structures.

Sample Services

Service Summary Definition
2.1 Strategic Problem / Opportunity Clearly describe the challenge or problem to be addressed by the solution.
2.2 Capability Definition (process, metrics and views) Conduct business process analysis to:
  • Identify and review business processes in the context of an end-to-end value chain (set of integrated business processes that fulfill a need identified by the organization)
  • Define “to be” processes leveraging standard COTS functionality to the maximum extent possible
  • Identify gaps and propose solutions to gaps
  • Gather key process metrics and performance indicators
    - Work with process owners to document key performance measures (e.g., Perfect Order Fulfillment) into the requirements documents
    - Identify reporting and analysis roles across the organization
Clearly define the measurable functional and non-functional requirements to be achieved by the intended solution. The requirements documentation will be used to determine ultimate acceptance of a solution.
  • Define requirements based on business needs
  • Document requirements and scope
2.3 Project Charter Capture in one definitive document the purpose of the project, the resources required, the project management approach, timeline, estimated budget, measures of success, risks and communications required.