Select the applicable Systems Engineering Process in the procurement of ITS.
Experience from a review of ITS contracting methods and practices. Step 5 of the Decision Model.
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Guide to Contracting ITS Projects


Experience has shown that the ITS procurement method can have a significant impact on the ultimate success of the ITS installation. Currently, the success rate for intelligent transportation systems life cycle is very low. Some of the key issues that have been identified with the procurement process include incorrect contracting approach, inexperience of the agency, failure to follow appropriate procedures, and inadequate commitment of project management and systems engineering resources.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) funded this research with the objective of developing a guide to contracting ITS projects and services that would assist government officials, traffic engineers, system integrators, and others involved in the specification development and purchasing of ITS installations. The approach for this study included an extensive literature review as well as a survey of state and local Departments of Transportation to learn about their current practices and experiences with ITS contracting. As a result, a report of findings, "Considerations for a Guide to Contracting ITS Projects" and "Guide to Contracting ITS Projects" were published. This guide presents an eight-step Decision Model that guides agencies through the procurement process and enables them to select the most appropriate procurement package for their project. To obtain a complete understanding of the Decision Model, readers should consider the full set of lessons learned (as each lesson learned is based on a separate step of the decision model).

Lessons Learned

The research for this document identified three basic types of system engineering processes, including waterfall, evolutionary and spiral. Each of these is appropriate for specific types of projects and agency capabilities. The selection of the systems engineering process will assist in the selection of the appropriate procurement package.

Observations regarding the use of systems engineering processes are presented as follows:

  • Utilize the waterfall approach for acquisitions of well-defined, mature technology. The waterfall model is most suited to highway design and construction processes, where the steps of planning, design and implementation are performed sequentially. This model is used for less complex ITS projects and can be applied under all agency capability levels.
  • Utilize the evolutionary approach for all but the simplest of systems development projects. The evolutionary approach involves a series of phases. It is suited for all agency capability levels and for most systems development projects.
  • Utilize the spiral approach when new technological capabilities are being implemented. The spiral method is appropriate when new, previously untested capabilities are being developed. This model involves multiple phases of planning, prototyping and evaluation. Given the significant resources required for this model, it is recommended for level 3 agencies that have experienced, full time ITS managers. This model is most commonly used by the Department of Defense and NASA, and is mainly used by the ITS community for the development of advanced systems, such as in-vehicle safety systems.

This lesson illustrates that not all systems engineering processes can be implemented using the same procurement approaches. This step, combined with the subsequent steps of the Decision Model, is designed to create an efficient and reliable procurement process. This increased efficiency can result in cost savings for agencies in the procurement of ITS. Moreover, by enabling agencies to choose the most appropriate procurement package, the Decision Model facilitates the ultimate success of the ITS deployment.

Guide to Contracting ITS Projects

Guide to Contracting ITS Projects
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Kenneth R. Marshall and Philip J. Tarnoff
National Cooperative Highway Research Board

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