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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Improving Transportation Systems Management and Operations – Capability Maturity Model Workshop White Paper – Systems and Technology

Executive Summary


Research done through the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) determined that agencies with the most effective transportation systems management and operations (TSM&O) activities were differentiated not by budgets or technical skills alone, but by the existence of critical processes and institutional arrangements tailored to the unique features of TSM&O applications. The significance of this finding has been validated in 40 State and regional self-assessment workshops using the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and its six dimensions of organizational capabilities. This White Paper focuses on Systems and Technology as one of the central dimensions of capability needed to support effective transportation systems management and operations (TSM&O) – including collaboration with public safety agencies, MPOs, local government, and public-private partnerships The Paper summarizes the TSM&O state-of-the-practice based on the Workshops and subsequent implementation plans developed at 23 sites selected by FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) as part of SHRP 2 Implementation.


The paper includes the following material:

  • A description of the SHRP 2 research and workshop process related to the institutional and process aspects of TSM&O including a description of the CMM self-assessment framework and its application to the Systems and Technology dimension.
  • A discussion of the state-of-the-practice regarding Systems and Technology in terms of their key elements including capability levels self-assessed at the workshops.
  • A description of key synergies between Systems and Technology and the other dimensions of capability and evaluation of managers span of control to affect improvement.
  • Best practice examples and references.
  • Suggested actions to address Systems and Technology needs on a national level.
  • An Appendix presenting the common implementation plan priority actions for the Systems and Technology dimension.

State of the Practice Findings for TSM&O Systems and Technology

Key findings from the workshops included:

ITS Architectures

  • Regional and statewide ITS architecture documents and use. A critical requirement for continuous improvement of TSM&O is a rigorous and systematic systems engineering approach. All states/regions in the workshops have some kind of an ITS architecture (either statewide or regional) consistent with Federal standards and the national ITS architecture; however, the use of the architecture for project planning or procurement varied widely. The value of a strong architecture was recognized and revising or updating the architecture was one of the action items mentioned most often for this dimension in the workshops.

Project Systems Engineering/Testing and Validation

  • Improve awareness and training. The systems engineering process was generally employed by DOTs and MPOs for ITS projects. When the National Architecture program was initially rolled out by the U.S. DOT, there were many training opportunities afforded to the State DOTs that were specific to systems engineering processes. It was often noted in the workshops that system engineering training options once offered by the U.S. DOT would be helpful if reinstituted. Although training programs specific to systems engineering may still exist, an increased awareness of these training opportunities would benefit many State DOT programs.
  • Procurement challenges. Often times States noted that purchasing ITS hardware and software introduced great challenges due to the way that State agencies procure IT equipment. The internal process can take too long resulting in the purchase of outdated products and requires several levels of approvals; when requirements are not clearly defined, unsuitable items are purchased. There are additional challenges with agency enterprise requirements (such as low bid, security requirements, etc.), which might not align with specific ITS or TSM&O requirements.
    Developing relationships with information technology (IT) groups and an understanding of IT procurement processes as they relate to TSM&O would also be useful from two perspectives: helping the TSM&O group understand the IT processes and informing IT groups about the unique aspects of procuring TSM&O technologies. The need to improve the way ITS elements are procured was the most noted action item resulting from the workshops.
  • Keeping pace. There were quite a few workshop locations that pointed out the challenge of keeping pace with rapidly evolving technology and the difficulties this creates, such as obsolescence of deployed equipment, outdated specifications, legacy equipment’s incompatibility with newer equipment, incompatibility with deployed software, and maintenance capabilities. There also were a wide range of issues associated with keeping up with maintenance of equipment, including learning to maintain new technology while maintaining older deployed technology when vendors move on to newer and more advanced equipment.


  • Interoperability. Working together in a region requires standards that support the interoperability of various systems and facilitation of the interchange of field and central system hardware and software operations. Some State DOTs have made interoperability of systems a priority.
  • Standards. Standards developed for the ITS industry are used to harmonize data communications, database exchanges, and information displays among diverse systems. It is essential that standards be integrated into the system development and acquisition program. Workshop participants noted that it was necessary to update standards regularly to stay on the forefront of quickly evolving technologies, with interoperability as the motivating goal.
  • Documentation. ConOps and project architectures exist for technology projects, but they often lack important information components such as cost elements, performance requirements, and evaluation. When strong documentation exists it paves the way for expansion and solid standardization of processes. Although an important part of the systems engineering process, a ConOp was not necessarily identified as a required element, except for larger, complex projects or where federal funding requirements necessitated developing one.
  • Approved vendor product lists. Agencies find that having qualified product lists facilitates purchasing ITS elements and can reduce the time needed to acquire products. This listing in essence pre-certifies products meeting the requirements and interoperability needs of the system.
  • Arterial Expansion. Agencies had a good grasp on freeway management and each workshop location had deployed freeway management systems in their urban areas. Not as well deployed or integrated into their freeway management systems were arterial signal systems. About half of the workshop locations had incorporated signal systems into the freeway management centers, and many noted an interest in expanding or including arterial signal systems. Workshop action items centered on developing plans and institutionalizing TSM&O freeway and arterial applications and performance guidelines.


Central to the Systems and Technology dimension are Business Processes and planning documents such as the statewide architecture and ConOps associated with technology projects. Links to the Organization and Staffing dimension were identified due to the need for additional systems engineering and other technical training. Collaboration is another dimension with strong linkages, with the need for coordination with many stakeholders a core element in the systems engineering process.

State DOT and Regional Implementation Plan Priorities

The leading participant-suggested actions for Systems and Technology include:

  • Improving Information Technology (IT) and ITS Procurement. From a State DOT perspective, procurement and purchasing responsibilities were generally allocated to an external State agency largely out of the control of the DOT. When the procurement group was within the DOT structure, the process was more efficient. Agency relationships external to the DOT needed attention; it was generally understood that there was a lack of awareness of the intricacies of procuring ITS elements in the larger procurement groups. Discussions often recommended increased attention to the relationship with the purchasing group and somehow increasing that group’s awareness of the special needs of procuring ITS elements. It was also noted that streamlining the purchasing processes could be enhanced by developing or updating qualified vendor lists.
  • Updating Regional and Statewide ITS Architectures. Implementation plans that addressed ITS architecture actions generally focused on assessing and updating existing architectures in need of revisions. Most workshop participants agreed on the importance of having and using a statewide or regional architecture, in that the architecture process: supports relationships among technology selection and deployment entities and relates it to needed functionalities; generally engages the FHWA Division office; and engages regional stakeholders such as MPOs and local agencies.

Best Practices and National Needs

This white paper describes example best practices and reference material regarding the implementation plan priority needs noted above. The paper also suggests supportive national actions to improve Systems and Technology including: compiling examples of best practices for the use of Statewide and Regional Architectures; developing a basic webinar module focused on ITS procurement processes; compiling resources related to training regarding the systems engineering process and standards implementation; developing a clearinghouse of standard specifications for frequently procured TSM&O technology; and compiling best practices and strategies for ITS device maintenance and maintenance programs, and keeping pace with rapidly changing lifecycle considerations. Important roles were seen for FHWA, AASHTO, the National Operations Center of Excellence, ITE, JPO, CITE, and NHI in supporting these efforts.

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