How does one know whether or not the requirements are right? Let’s start with a simple concept—good requirements are essential for successful acquisitions. You can’t get what you need unless you can describe it well. The four keys to ensuring good requirements are to make sure that they:
1) Are clear and unambiguous
2) Reflect the needs of the end-users
3) Consider the capabilities of the supplier
4) Are carefully stress tested
The requirements must be written in a way that minimizes the range of interpretations—both on the government side and within industry. Industry days facilitate open communication between government and industry which helps minimize ambiguity during the requirement gathering phase.
It is key to know who the stakeholders are and to include them in the process early and often. This includes the program staff, contracting staff and end users. If the acquisition does not meet the end user’s needs or is difficult for them to use, the effort to complete the acquisition will go to waste.
To ensure success, it is important to view industry as a partner in the effort. The requirements must take into account the technology and trends within industry in order to ensure that a solution is available, affordable and realistic. Poorly written requirements increase the risk of failure and increase the likelihood of a successful protest.
Finally, it is important to put the requirements to the test before the final request for proposals (RFP) is posted. Requirements should be reviewed by not only asking the question “does this meet what I need?” but also by asking “can these be interpreted to mean anything else?” The requirements testing should occur both internally, probing end users and program staff to review, as well as externally via a request for information (RFI) and draft solicitation responses. Following this process will allow the team to fix any inconsistencies and ensure there are clear requirements necessary to achieve a successful acquisition outcome.
Bill is the leader of the Noblis Acquisition Tools Center of Excellence.
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