Keys to Acquisition Planning

Two essential documents used to prepare in the pre-award stage are the acquisition strategy and acquisition plan. These documents prevent issues like schedule and scope creep. The acquisition strategy is a comprehensive plan that identifies and describes the acquisition approach that program management will follow to manage program risks and meet program objectives. Derived from the acquisition strategy, an acquisition plan is a plan that documents all cost, schedule, technical, business, and management considerations.  The consultants at Washington Business Dynamics understand the importance of proper planning up front and are experts in developing these artifacts.  

The acquisition strategy is a comprehensive, integrated plan developed as part of acquisition planning activities. It describes the business, technical, and support strategies to manage program risks and meet program objectives. The strategy guides acquisition program execution across the entire program (or system) life cycle. It defines the relationship between the acquisition phases and work efforts, and key program events such as decision points, reviews, contract awards, test activities, production lot/delivery quantities, and operational deployment objectives. The strategy evolves over time and should continuously reflect the current status and desired endpoint of the program. 

The acquisition strategy will serve as a guide to the program manager and the stakeholders throughout the entire acquisition. It cannot be developed by one person; it is a team effort. Each functional area must be addressed in the acquisition strategy, meaning all stakeholders should provide input. The acquisition strategy is a living document and referral provides guidance on the path forward. Think about it as an itinerary for a group trip. Everyone going will have input, and the itinerary will be referred to throughout the trip to make sure everyone stays on track. Additionally, the itinerary may change due to weather, event cancellation, changes in restrictions due to COVID. Just like your itinerary would be updated because of a myriad of reasons, the acquisition strategy would be updated as well. Now that a strategy is in developed, the team must create an acquisition plan.  

The acquisition plan summarizes the acquisition planning discussions and identifies milestones in the acquisition process. The acquisition plan can be thought of as a daily reference for the team. It documents the tasks required to complete the acquisition and clearly lists the required deliverables. All aspects of cost, schedule, and scope should be considered when documenting the acquisition plan as well as the risks that could affect the acquisition. 

The acquisition plan and acquisition strategy are essential to an acquisition because the acquisition team must have a reference manual on how to approach the acquisition (strategy) as well as which tasks are required to fulfill it (plan). These documents are used to guide all remaining artifacts and actions for the life of the acquisition. It is highly recommended that they are prepared as early as possible. These documents are the roadmap to success, so while it takes time up front to prepare them, they save time on the back end of the acquisition and give the stakeholders higher confidence in the team. Think of it this way: when preparing for that group trip, do you go in blind and hope for the best? Or do you plan for the best?  

Author: Chantel Symnonette, Lead Consultant at WBD, is a member of WBD’s Acquisition Solution Group and supports a Department of Defense client.