Sunday, August 9, 2015

On Time and on Target

This post address a previous project where the potential for scope creep existed.

In 2012 while working as a Training Research Analyst for the Department of the Navy, I initiated a feasibility study which ultimately led to the awarding of a contract to upgrade the Boot Camp Small Arms Simulation Trainer (SAMT). Specifically, my brief required implementing or improving technology-related training solutions. Essentially, I was charged with uncovering potential solutions to justify my existence.

The SAMT was commission in the early 1990’s and was designed to provide core marksmanship skills for 40,000 Navy Recruits annually, prior to progressing to the live firing range. The range was equipped with a plumbed compressed air system which simulates 50% of the recoil developed during live fire and a laser targeting and computer tracking system. Photographs below depict system details.
Note the air recoil line and barrel-mounted laser

Note the circular target mounted on the silhouette target and the monitor indicating target hits

 My investigation uncovered several known deficiencies with the existing laser targeting system including; obsolete targeting software (DOS), an inaccurate laser detection system that lagged post-shot vibration and movement, and unrealistic targets bearing no resemblance to the targets utilized for qualification on the live firing range (LFR).
Research revealed the company currently under contract to maintain the system had developed substantial improvements to the laser targeting system based on contemporary Windows software. Additionally, an upgraded photographic laser detection system enabled realistic targeting systems and sharply reduced detection times.
At the time, the SAMT was scheduled for a “Technical Refresh” which would have provided some miner upgrades, but continue to utilize the existing DOS-based targeting system. After arranging for a product demonstration, the advantages of contemporary systems were immediately apparent. Most importantly, the upgraded system only cost double the price of the scheduled Technical Refresh. Obviously….despite challenging monetary conditions…upgrading the system was a no-brainer.
According to (Portny 2008) scope creep is an extension of a natural tendency to introduce improvements to a project. To be sure, the vendor’s offerings greatly exceeded our requirements to instill basic marksmanship skills. For example, realistic high fidelity projector-based battle simulations were available which included enemy hit feedback systems. Additional bells and whistles included blank ammunition which produced realistic recoil and sound.
From a research perspective, these additional upgrades were attractive, however our team was keen to remain within scope of the basic marksmanship skill development objective. Once the contract was awarded the project was out of our hands and a professional Systems Engineer managed the implementation to ensure on budget/time delivery. Although the Department of Defense procurement system is plagued with cost overruns, the Systems Engineer did a great job in keeping the project on budget.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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