Program Management

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)

The operational command, often with support from the program office, develops and assesses a range of potential alternatives to meet the needs stated in the Initial Capabilities Document (ICD). The analysis shall include:

  • A Status Quo Alternative (As-Is)
  • Proposed alternatives to include:
    • New developments
    • Tailoring or integrating COTS and GOTS products
    • Acquiring capabilities as a service
    • Maturing the legacy system(s)
    • Various systems, system-of-systems, network, and data architecture configurations
    • Hybrids of any above alternatives
  • Estimates of lifecycle costs or total ownership costs
  • Affordability goals and budget constraints
  • Measures of Effectiveness (MOEs) that are operationally relevant and measurable
  • Measures of Performance (MOP) – Technical characteristics required to satisfy MOEs and are measurable and employed as operational test criteria
  • Enterprise impacts beyond a program centric solution
  • Risk and sensitivity analysis of mission, technology, programmatic, to include funding
  • List of assumptions – mission, technology, and programmatic
  • Schedule estimates with associated deliverables
  • Suitability
  • Benchmarking and business process reengineering studies (where applicable)

Both the effectiveness analysis and the cost analysis should address the risks and uncertainties for the alternatives, and present appropriate sensitivity analysis that describes how such uncertainties can influence the cost-effectiveness comparison of the alternatives.

The effectiveness analysis should be tied to the organizational missions, functions, and objectives that are directly supported by the implementation of the system being considered. In some cases, it may be possible to express the assessment of effectiveness across the alternatives in monetary terms, and so effectiveness could be assessed as benefits in the analysis framework. In other cases, the effectiveness might be related to measurable improvements to business capabilities or better or timelier management information (leading to improved decision-making, where it can be difficult or impossible to quantify the benefits). In these cases, a common approach is to portray effectiveness using one or more surrogate metrics. Examples of such metrics might be report generation timeliness, customer satisfaction, or supplier responsiveness. In addition to management information, the effectiveness analysis also should consider information assurance and interoperability issues.

The Director of CAPE (or the equivalent at the Component level) provides AoA Guidance at the MDD which the Component provides an AoA Study Plan structured to address the AoA Guidance. Operational sponsors are encouraged to work with CAPE in conducting an AoA. While most AoA guidance is directed at MDAPs, the Defense Acquisition Guidebook offers AoA considerations for MAIS programs, including a tailored outline of an AoA Study Plan.

Programs embracing the Agile methodology must apply due diligence in an AoA to properly consider the vast solution space in the dynamic IT environment. Yet they should not become bogged down in too much detailed analysis for an extended period given the rapid pace of change in operations and technologies. While AoA updates are required at subsequent milestones, they often are treated as a one-time, major effort during the MSA phase. Agile programs may iterate elements of the analysis throughout the subsequent phases based on an improved understanding of the technical, cost, and operational considerations. This will help shape release planning throughout the program’s development to ensure the program pursues the right solution.

Best Practices for Conducting Successful AoAs:

  • Establish a well-structured, objective plan – Programs cannot conduct an AoA with a predefined solution in mind. Exploring all viable alternatives against objective criteria is essential.
  • Use a small AoA team – Embrace the Agile benefits of small empowered teams over the coordination and consensus building of large teams. A small core team can reach out to a wide array of stakeholders for inputs.
  • Actively involve stakeholders – Ensure the user community is actively represented along with stakeholders from across all of the functional groups.

Incorporate risk – Examine the operational, technical, and business risks to the mission need and potential materiel solution alternatives.

Additional References:

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