McDonald Bradley talks up verification, validation business

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

To get an information technology system implemented right the first time, you need an independent entity to check that all the requirements were met, according to a top official at McDonald Bradley Inc.

Kenneth Bartee, the company's president and chief executive officer, said he has seen more opportunities for independent verification and validation (IV&V) contractors in the past two years than he had in the previous five years. One of his company's core competencies is IV&V.

He pointed to the recent five-year award, worth nearly $40 million, to New Jersey-based Galaxy Scientific Corp. by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the agency's Information Technology Product Assurances (ITPA) services contract.

In their statement of work, USPTO officials indicated patent and trademark applications would increase substantially, which would require expansion or modification of the agency's IT infrastructure. The ITPA contractor would conduct quality assurance testing and assessments of the design, development and implementation of new automated systems, upgrades of existing systems, and various other enhancements.

"It is one of the places that probably does, I think, IV&V the correct right way," said Bartee, whose company is a subcontractor to Galaxy, which has had the USPTO contract for years. He said his company was brought onboard because it had a more current methodology, called QV2, to ensure that testing is done the same way from the requirements phase through the final product.

"In most cases where they've fully made use of IV&V, the bug rates and the rework rates are significantly lower over the lifecycle of development," he said. "There's more cost upfront but, over the lifecycle, significantly less cost for development."

Although the USPTO, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and several other agencies include IV&V, it's not done nearly enough governmentwide, he said.

"When budgets get tough, it tends to go away," he said. But, he added, IV&V contractors are being used more because agencies have increasingly complex IT systems, are placing a greater emphasis on getting more bang for the buck, and lack expertise to do such work.

Some program management offices include IV&V. But if it's done by the developer or integrator, it defeats the purpose of being independent, he said, adding that a good independent tester has to work with developers and not have an adversarial relationship.

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