Cost and benefit analysis for the development of a software information system

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Virginia Tech

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing a new software information system -- the Surface Movement Advisor (SMA). This system development program has progressed through part of the system engineering process and is currently at a stage where additional funding will be required to complete the development. The budget for R&D at the FAA is tight and several new programs are vying for limited funds. To secure funding for further development the SMA system team must again demonstrate that it has a cost effective solution that is beneficial to the airlines and their passengers. The purpose of this project was to gather, structure, and analyze cost data and benefit information within the context of the systems engineering process as being practiced by the FAA and their SMA contractors.

The requirements for the SMA system are based on the fact that the developers have confirmed operational deficiencies concerning accurate and timely information about the status, position, and movement of commercial aircraft on the ground at the major airports in the country. This deficiency causes excessive and costly ground delays of aircraft. With proper information the ground controllers in the control towers will be able to direct ground traffic more efficiently and reduce the costly delays. The designers have confirmed the need for the system. They have developed feasible concepts, listed the requirements for the system, system specifications, and some preliminary designs. The systems engineers now must now decide among three design alternatives.

This project demonstrates a systems engineering approach to the evaluation of these design alternatives, selection of the preferred alternative and demonstration of possible benefits to justify further funding. This is the first cost and benefit analysis and many of the costs and benefits are best estimates. At later stages in the development cycle costs and benefits will be analyzed again using more current data, more accurate assumptions, and results from prototype testing and evaluation. The estimates will become more accurate in the detailed design phase in the future.

benefits, life-cycle, costs