DHS bureau standardizes software acquisitions

The Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection bureau has successfully formalized its process for buying enterprise software.

The bureau's Modernization Office attained a Level 2 Capability Maturity Model for Software Acquisition rating.

The Level 2 rating is the first one ever achieved by a federal civilian agency, said Stephen Hawald, an executive consultant for Robbins-Gioia LLC of Alexandria, Va., which helped the bureau establish its software purchasing process.

'So many large modernization programs have trouble and are cancelled due to a lack of a controlled process discipline. The nice thing about [CMM] is that it gives you a proven framework ' to manage risk and get your products and services delivered on time,' Hawald said.

Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute developed the CMM-SA with help from the Defense Department, several civilian agencies and industry participants. The model evaluates an organization's software buying methods by looking at how an organization's acquisition policy strategy is reflected in project plans, requirements, contract oversight and planning, program management and software support. It also requires that an organization incorporate lessons from past successes and failures into the software acquisition process, Hawald said.

Customs will use the model to implement an enterprise resource planning system that the agency is buying from SAP AG of Walldorf, Germany. It will also use the system to help deploy Web portals for transactional systems and middleware, Hawald said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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