The GAO undertook a review to identify: (1) problems federal agencies have in satisfying their application software needs; (2) options available to agencies in acquiring application software; (3) whether agencies are taking advantage of the most beneficial options; and (4) recommendations to help satisfy federal software needs faster and more economically.
GAO found a number of methods that can reduce the costs and delays associated with custom development of new software. Currently, application software needs can be satisfied by: (1) making new software through software development; (2) using generators or problem-oriented packages; (3) using vendor software packages; (4) sharing existing software; and (5) modifying and enhancing existing software.
The GAO found that no overall process exists to ensure that federal agencies consider alternative methods of satisfying software needs. In the data processing installations which GAO visited, over 98% of the software inventories had been custom-developed, which is a long and costly process. Only about 1% of their application software was acquired off-the-shelf. Many federal and private computer installations have common tasks, and existing software developed elsewhere is available. Despite the general lag in federal use of packaged software and other alternatives, the GAO found that a few federal agencies have initiated cost-effective solutions to their software needs.