This article originally appeared in the December 2002 issue of The Rational Edge E-zine on-line magazine, copyright 2002-2003 IBM and Max Wideman.

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is a rigorous software development process advocated by the Rational Software Corporation.

The downloadable PDF file of the paper on this site is the one prepared by the Rational Edge editorial staff with the special assistance of Ms Marlene Ellin.

Published here June, 2003.

Introduction | Problems with the Traditional Acquisition Process | Keeping It Simple
What Does Contracting Involve? | The Vocabulary of Acquistion | PART II

The Vocabulary of Acquistion

One effective way to bridge communication gaps is to establish a common vocabulary among all the players. Interpreting terminology is often a problem within a business unit whose members are spread far apart, but it can become a serious obstacle when you begin to mix people with totally different business backgrounds. Not only do some terms mean different things to different people, but also the same meaning may be expressed in entirely different terms. Because I hope that both developers and managers - and both acquirers and suppliers of software development resources - will read this article, it is important to establish shared definitions for the following key terms.

Acquisition - The process of obtaining a system, software product, or software service through contract.[2] Also known as procurement. Although not specifically stated in the ISO/IEC 12207 Standard, the term refers to purchases made through legal contract. Sometimes acquisition is applied in a narrower sense, to refer to buying an off-theshelf, or pre-existing, system or software, with or without some degree of customization. While this is not correct usage, Figure 1 shows "off the shelf software" at the far end of the customization spectrum as an example of zero customization.

Acquirer - An organization that acquires or procures a system, software, or software service from a supplier. The acquirer may also be referred to as a purchaser, buyer, customer, or owner. The acquirer may or may not also be the "user." Generally, users are a subgroup interested primarily in the software's capability and ease of use, whereas the acquirer is more concerned with cost and delivery schedule, given agreement on the functionality.

Contract - A binding agreement between two parties, especially enforceable by law, for the supply of software service or the supply, development, production, operation, or maintenance of a software product.[3] This is a binding agreement that establishes the requirements for the products and services to be acquired.[4]

The ISO/IEC 12207 Standard definition also suggests that a contract may be "a similar agreement wholly within an organization." Generally, no form of agreement is enforceable by law unless the parties are operating "at arm's length" - in other words, they are entirely independent of one another. However, large corporations may wish to establish internal agreements similar to legal ones as a matter of operational policy, and the extent to which they are enforceable by law depends on the relationship between the parties. Note that contract law labels the parties to a contract as buyer and seller.

Progressive Acquisition (PA) - A strategy to acquire a large and complex system that is expected to change over its lifecycle. The objective of PA is to minimize many of the risks for both parties associated with the length and size of software projects. The final system is obtained by upgrades of the system capability through a series of evolutionary, operational increments.[5]

Subcontractor - A second and distinct party to which a primary contractor passes some portion of work described in the contract. This term is sometimes used incorrectly to describe the awarding of several contracts by the acquiring organization.

Supplier - Any organization that supplies services or goods to the customer.[6] Also known as a contractor, seller, subcontractor, or vendor.

What Does Contracting Involve?  What Does Contracting Involve?

2. "Software Acquisition Capability Maturity Model," Appendix B: Glossary of Terms. Software Engineering Institute, 1999
3. ISO/IEC 12207 International Standard, Section 3, "Definitions"
4. "Software Acquisition Capability Maturity Model," Op.Cit.
5. Giles Pitette, "Progressive Acquisition and the RUP: Comparing and Combining Iterative Process for Acquisition and Software Development," The Rational Edge, November 2001
6. "An Abridged Glossary of Project Management Terms" (Rev.4) in the Association of Project Management (UK) APMP Syllabus, second edition, 2000

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