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Bringing best practices and lessons learned to life: the DoD best practices Clearinghouse.

Many government organizations have attempted to develop systems to capture best practices or lessons learned, but have fallen short of success. As programs are asked to do more with tighter budgets and schedules, it becomes crucial to avoid past mistakes. However, finding appropriate best practices is not always easy. Rarely is there evidence about expected outcomes resulting from a particular best practice to aid in its selection within a given context. In many cases, guidance based on experience is missing, and the gap between "what is a best practice?" and "how do I implement it?" addressed in detail or at all.

The Defense Acquisition University's knowledge management team has partnered with elements of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to leverage research conducted by the Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering (University of Maryland) and CSC to carefully design a new tool that achieves a Congressional mandate to improve software development, while at the same time meeting an emerging need in support of the larger DoD acquisition workforce.

The vision for this new system--the DoD Acquisition Best Practices Clearinghouse, or BPCh-is to provide an integrated set of processes, tools, and resources that enable users to share experiences and identify practices through evidence of practice effectiveness in environments like their own. On Feb. 29, that vision was finally realized with the public launch of BPCh.

Located at <https://bpch.dau.mil>, BPCh also completes a planned "system of systems" called the Acquisition Knowledge Management System (AKMS), which in addition to BPCh, is composed of the Acquisition Community Connection (ACC), the Acquisition Knowledge Sharing System (AKSS) and the ACQuire search site. Each of these systems are jointly sponsored and supported by the Office of the Under Secretary of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and DAU.

BPCh is designed to help improve DoD's systems acquisition processes by allowing users to select and implement proven acquisition, development and systems engineering practices appropriate to their individual programmatic needs. Rather than recreate or repost information, BPCh is designed to link to as many existing resources as possible that not only identify practices, but how to implement them.

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BPCh adopts an evidence-based approach, in which supporting evidence and practices for programs undergo a system of recommendations and vetting by government, industrial and academic members comprising a "practice providers network." The value added that BPCh provides is that stored evidence is contextualized, guiding users to lessons and practices relevant to their program, type of problem, or specific environment, which helps them learn from practical results--both good and bad--and may be applied in their environment. BPCh users have immediate access (with suitable caveats) to source materials from which vetted recommendations will be built.

Vetted recommendations help form a practice's ultimate "maturity rating," indicated by a bronze, silver or gold rating in the system. Bronze-level practices are nominated by experts and user communities, and have received a preliminary check for applicability. While the detailed evaluations continue, the initial evidence is provided to aid users in making informed decisions. For example, a bronze-level practice would typically be simply identified in a practice listing, or minimally, consist of a few supporting details or minor evidence that describes what types of programs have used the practice and how it was applied..

Silver-level practices have been selected as promising enough to commission experts in the practice area to summarize key information. Users can see at a glance what they should know--and they can always see the source of the practice summary by following pointers to more in-depth practice evidence than is available at a bronze-level practice. A silver-level practice would also include an easy-to-read summary of key information prepared by an expert in the given practice area.

Gold-level practices have been through a rigorous analysis by a committee of experts in the practice area itself as well as by user representatives. Information on gold-level practices contains the best and widest-ranging experiences that are available to the user. Gold practices have a fully detailed summary and a vetting certification assuring that the information has been checked for both accuracy and usefulness.

As with any knowledge-sharing tool, it is imperative that users always read a practice's entire summary because there may be examples where results for a project type are not ideal. Users should also bear in mind that additional and new evidence will continue to be added to existing practices recorded in BPCh, describing results in new contexts, with summaries updated as needed to reflect the new knowledge.

Visit BPCh at < https://bpch.dau.mil > for more information on this new tool, and if you have more questions please contact Mike Lambert, BPCh program manager, at michael.lambert@dau.mil, or John Hickok, DAU director of knowledge management, at john.hickok@dau.mil.
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Title Annotation:Spotlight on DAU Learning Resources
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Words:790
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