Software baseline instability has done more to undermine acquisition credibility and complicate effective management of the acquisition of software intensive systems than the inability to establish realistic software development cost and schedule baselines (Acquisition Program Baseline, Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB), and Technical Baseline). Without a realistic estimate of the required effort and schedule, tied to specific requirements during program formulation and adjusted for risk, it is almost a certainty that the initial overall program estimate will not accommodate the software development.
The steps to arrive at a realistic cost and schedule baseline include the following: 
- Develop initial software cost and schedule estimates to the highest confidence achievable given what is known about the program at the time the estimate is performed. Use these estimates during initial program planning and formulation.
- Refine those initial estimates as more data becomes available during the pre-Request for Proposal (RFP) time period.
- Solicit data and design details during Source Selection and use those refined estimates to evaluate the realism of the offeror‘s proposed cost and schedule baselines.
- Develop and refine estimates of software size for all software to be developed and integrated. Include expected reuse and integration of legacy software, subcontractor efforts, Commercial off-the-Shelf (COTS), and Government Furnished Equipment (GFE). Base these estimates on similar past programs when possible.
- Use estimated size to establish the associated software development effort and schedule (this may include defining appropriate software estimating model input parameters). Collaborate with other Government organizations to create and maintain program estimates.
- During Source Selection, ensure the proposed effort and schedule are compatible with disciplined application of the offeror‘s proposed software development processes, accommodates the required system performance (relates to software size), and accommodates requirements changes, including the reallocation of requirements from hardware to software.
- Ensure the key deliverables and activities are clearly addressed in the contract.
- Identify and manage software-related risks.
- Ensure that cost, schedule, and technical/performance baselines are realistic and compatible with established program requirements.
- Ensure that expectations related to software are managed in accordance with the overall program‘s plan.
- Ensure the program cost and schedule baselines have the capacity to accommodate the high confidence estimates for effort and schedule, as well as potential risk impacts.
AcqLinks and References:
- USAF Weapon Systems Software Management Guidebook – Chapter 3.2.5
- Open Technology Development (OTD): Lessons Learned & Best Practices for Military Software, – 16 May 2011
- Mil-STD-498 “Software Development and Documentation” – 5 Dec 1994
- MIL-STD-498 “Application and Reference Guidebook” – 3 Jan 1996
- Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG) – Chapter 4
- Software Development Plan Information Outline