New GAO Report on Iterative, Rapid Delivery
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a new report of interest to the life cycle logistics functional area, as well as the defense acquisition workforce, entitled GAO-23-106222 Leading Practices: Iterative Cycles Enable Rapid Delivery of Complex, Innovative Products.
According to the GAO, “Agencies are increasingly investing in products that combine hardware and software—"cyber-physical systems"—to meet their mission needs. Traditional acquisition processes don't support speedy delivery of these systems. Leading companies get these kinds of systems to market quickly using iterative design, testing, and feedback processes. For example, data from simulations and tests are recorded in a "digital thread"—a tool that product teams can access in real time to quickly and continually improve the product design. Our report outlines cutting-edge practices that can inform agencies' ongoing efforts to improve acquisition performance.”
The auditors go on to remind readers that “Agencies are increasingly acquiring complex products, such as combined networks of hardware and software, which require new processes to design, produce, and deliver. GAO has found that to consistently deliver products with speed to users, acquisition programs for these networks—known as cyber-physical systems, such as aircraft and uncrewed vehicles—must adopt new approaches to evaluate performance and assess execution risks. Solutions, though, are unlikely to originate exclusively within government. Rather, identifying the practices that leading companies rely on to create cyber-physical products can provide crucial, cutting-edge information to acquisition leaders in government and, in turn, ultimately help frame changes to agencies’ acquisition processes….”
“Leading companies use iterative processes to design, validate, and deliver complex cyber-physical products with speed. Activities in these iterative cycles often overlap as the design undergoes continuous user engagement and testing. Knowledge about the product’s design is progressively refined and stored in a digital thread—a common source of information that helps stakeholders make decisions, like determining product requirements, throughout the product’s life. As they proceed, product teams refine the design to achieve a minimum viable product (MVP)—one with the initial set of capabilities needed for customers to recognize value. They use modern manufacturing tools and processes to produce and deliver the product in time to meet their customers’ needs.” A key takeaway of this new report is “leading companies progress through iterative cycles to develop a minimum viable product.”