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For organisations to be successful in whatever their
endeavours, they need to be actively involved in
thinking both operationally and strategically.

Operational thinking allows them to continue day to

day, or business as usual operations in a smooth,
efficient and effective manner.

Operational thinking does not necessarily allow

organisations to consider the longer term direction
that the organisation should take in conducting
business. Nor does it allow the organisation to
maintain an awareness of longer term opportunities
and threats. For this view, organisations need to
think strategically.

In some cases, organisations uncover gaps in their

current capability that will impact on their ability to
move in the desired strategic direction.

These capability gaps may be critically important to

the organisation.

Some capability gaps will prevent an organisation

from achieving the strategic objectives that have
been established, with resultant long term

The gaps may result in opportunities that the

organisation is unable to exploit.

The gaps may open vulnerabilities to threats from

competition or adversaries.

Capability gaps come in an endless variety of shapes

and sizes.

If I consider my own life, I have plenty of capability

gaps. For example, I would love to be able to surf at
the beaches near my home but I am unable to do this
currently. I dont currently own a surfboard, I dont
currently have roof-racks on my car and I dont
currently have the necessary skills to stand on a
surfboard. I clearly have a serious capability gap.

On a more serious note, I know of commercial
organisations who have identified niches in their
markets but lack the ability to be able to exploit
those niches. Their capability gap is in the form of a
lack of people, processes and tools to perform
product development in order to address those
niches with marketable solutions.

On a larger scale, some Governments around the

country would like to plug gaps in Government-
provided services such as health services for
disadvantaged people, or transportation services for
particular regional areas.

Some military organisations around the world may

want to be able to monitor their national boarders
but currently lack the capability to do this to a
desired level.

Once business stakeholders become aware of critical

capability gaps and commit to either closing or
reducing those gaps, they are establishing the need
for a solution.

Naturally organisations will probably not be able to

address all of the gaps in their capability. They will
need to prioritise the gaps and concentrate on
addressing the most critical gaps first.

Establishment of a need for a solution marks the

start of the systems engineering lifecycle and indeed
the start of what we call the Conceptual Design
phase of that lifecycle.

We typically address these capability gaps in a

methodical manner.

We start by concentrating on the business or

organisational needs and what the resultant
requirements for the eventual solution might be.
Business needs and requirements are, after all, what
we are trying to address so understanding these [are]
a logical starting point.

We then have a look at what the relevant

stakeholders within the business would like to
achieve. These stakeholders will be people who are
involved with the business or organisation in the
areas where the need exists. They will have particular
views on what is required by the eventual solution

We then move onto what some people consider to

be the start of traditional systems engineering where
we take the business and stakeholder needs and

develop a formal understanding of the system-level
requirements that our potential solutions must meet
if they are to satisfy stakeholder and business needs.

An understanding of system level requirements

allows us to take a detailed look at the potential
system level solutions that may exist. We will be
interested in knowing what level of compliance these
solutions will exhibit, what options the solutions
come with, how much they costs and how long they
will take to realise. We will also be interested in the
risks associated with each solution and longer term
issues such as sustainment and disposal. This will
allow us to select a preferred system level solution.
This process is sometimes referred to as system level
synthesis to give the feeling of evolving design. The
term synthesis has its roots in Latin and, before that
Greek, meaning to place together.

The need to stop our work periodically and check

that we are on the right path is almost so obvious
that it goes without mention, but in this MOOC we
will mention it anyway. Once we have done all of this
work with our business stakeholders and think we
are ready to move on to solving their business needs,
we will draw breathe and have a look at what we
have achieved. This will give everyone a chance to
review the work, look at the problem space that we
have defined, look at the preferred system level
solution we have selected and confirm that we are
ready to move on to the next stage. We call this
review a system design review because, well, thats
what it is. A review of the system level requirements
and the system level solution to ensure that the two
are appropriately understood and appropriated
matched before proceeding.

Lets take a look at each of these 5 steps in order to

gain a better appreciation of what is going on.

Lets assume that the business stakeholders have

selected a capability gap for reduction or closure,
there is plenty of work for them to do in order to
start addressing this gap. Lets look quickly at what
needs to be done in order to define the business
needs and requirements and we will then look at
each of these areas in more detail.

Firstly, the business needs to determine which

organisational stakeholders will be given
responsibility for identifying the business needs and
requirements associated with the gap.

These major business stakeholders will then be

tasked with identifying the constraints associated
with situation. Constraints can take many forms but

invariably exist and limit the options open to the
organisation in terms of the ultimate solution to their
business needs.

Stakeholders are then able to develop a more

thorough understanding of the business needs that
must be addressed by the system by exploring the
missions, goals and objectives that the solution must

Systems rarely sit in a perfectly isolated situation, so

it is critical also to understand where the system sits
in relation to its environment and other external
systems. This allows the stakeholders to understand
and articulate the scope of the system. That is, what
is considered in-scope, or part of the system and
what is considered to be beyond the scope of the
system. This activity also allows stakeholders to start
to understand the potentially numerous interfaces
with the external environment that will need to exist.

This information will allow stakeholders to look at

feasible alternative solutions and extract more
formal business requirements associated with the
capability gap. These business requirements will be
more formally stated than the needs. Whilst the
needs paint a picture of the problem and desired
solution, the resultant business requirements are a
further decomposition of the needs so that we can
understand exactly what the business requires of the
ultimate solution when it is deployed.

When this work is complete, it is generally

documented and reviewed by the business in order
to endorse the work as representing what is
required. This could be thought of as a formal
approval process to allow the business needs and
requirements to be used as the basis of the
subsequent systems engineering effort.

Lets look at these steps in more detail.

The business needs to identify the people who will

be able to execute the process described earlier. The
people will be selected because they are either
affected by the system in some way or can affect the
system in some way.

Selection of the correct stakeholders is an important

first step because they will shape the system to
come. Not everyone who is affected by or has an
affect on the system will be considered stakeholders.
This list would be far too large to be useful. The
business needs to restrict the stakeholders to those
who are considered to have a right to affect the

Examples of typical stakeholders might include
representatives from management who are directly
impacted by the system or the need that the system
is being designed to satisfy.

Engineering and technical people who will be

responsible for design, development, testing and
acceptance activities associated with the system may
also be considered key stakeholders.

Maintenance and logistics personnel who will be

responsible for sustaining the system (and ultimately
disposing of the system) will have a direct interest in
forming the requirements for the system. In this way,
the compelling metrics of lifecycle cost can be taken
into account.

Also, the people who will use the system or benefit

from the system will typically be represented in the
key stakeholder group.

These stakeholders will have plenty of work to do in

the early stages of conceptual design. One of the
things we need to understand as early as possible is
the presence of constraints on the system. These
constraints will be imposed on the system by virtue
of circumstance and will effectively limit options
associated with the system. If the system is not
designed with these constraints in mind, it may fail to
operate correctly when the constraints are imposed
on it and therefore fail to deliver the results expected
from it.

Examples of constraints include business constraints

like policies, procedures, standards, or existing
relationships or contracts. Project constraints such as
budget and schedule limits will impact on the options
available. External constraints that are beyond the
control of the organisation may also need to be
identified and considered. Examples may include
laws and regulations, and the availability of skilled
workforces. Finally, there may be some design-
related constraints that need to be identified and
considered. Examples may include technology
stability and availability, design tool availability, and
production and construction capabilities or

Once we have the right stakeholders on board and we
understand the constraints under which we are
operating, the stakeholders are able to start working
on developing an appreciation of the business needs
that are driving the requirement for a new system.

A good starting point in any development of needs is

to look at the mission of the system. This should be a
concise statement, maybe only a sentence or two
long, that captures essence of the system. Once
captured, the mission is generally explained and
expanded on by a series of goal statements that
relate to the mission. From the goals will come
objectives that will help describe what the system
needs to be able to achieve.

In this way, we end up with a hierarchical structure

where the mission spawns a number of goals which,
in turn, spawn a number of objectives.

Another valuable exercise for the stakeholders to

undertake is the development of short stories or
descriptions of how the system will be used to solve
the business need. These stories or descriptions are
often called scenarios and allow stakeholders to paint
a picture of the system and its use. Scenarios help
develop an understanding of the importance of the
operational and support environment, the various
actors that will be involved with the system, the many
external systems that may interact with the system,
and the types of things that may go wrong when the
the system is being used. Scenarios may be
developed using common tools like functional flow
block diagrams, drawings, illustrations, simulations
and models.whichever is the most effective way of
describing how the system will be used.

Whilst stakeholders are busy developing scenarios

that describe how the system will be used and
supported, they should also be thinking about how
the effectiveness of the system in meeting business
needs is going to be confirmed. Convincing sets of
stakeholders that their expectations of the system
have been satisfied is often referred to as validation.
Determining the top level validation criteria is
therefore something that needs to be done whilst
engaging with the relevant stakeholders. Knowing
how a system is going to be validated by the groups of
stakeholders is something that will impact on the
development of subsequent business, stakeholder
and system level requirements via a hierarchy of
measures of effectiveness, measures of performance
and related requirements verification statements.

Finally, to complete the elicitation of business needs,

stakeholders should define any important lifecycle
concepts associated with the system.

Some of these concepts will be supported by the
scenarios that have already been developed but it is
important for business stakeholders to explain their
concepts, thoughts, and expectations in relation to:
- How the system will be operated (sometimes called
an Operational Concept or OpsCon)
- How the system will be acquired (called an
acquisition concept covering things like the expected
use of contractual models arrangements and so on)
- How the system will be deployed or transitioned
from the acquisition phase to the utilisation phase
- How the system will be supported during the
utilisation phase including ideas for contracted
support versus in house support and so on
- And how the system will ultimately be disposed of
including expectations, constraints or requirements
associated with disposal.

Whilst we are working on our basic business needs,

we will also be developing a much better
understanding of the scope of our system. We are
looking to understand the context of our system (in
terms of its environment and external systems),
define the boundary of our system (that is, where
our system begins and ends in terms of its
environment and external systems) and therefore
what external interfaces exist between our system
and the external systems in our environment.

The context of our system in terms of how it sits

within its environment and external systems is often
explained with a diagram called, not surprisingly, a
context diagram.

We have included a simple context diagram for a

domestic burglar alarm system to give you an idea of
what we are talking about.

We can see here that if we are developing an alarm

system for our house, it does not sit in isolation. It
sits and operates within an existing and surprisingly
complicated environment. Largely it sits within our
house but in doing so may interact with intruders as
well as us. It will probably interact also with our
homes power system and the telephone network
that connects our house to the outside world (on our
diagram we have shown this as the standard public
switched telephone network or PSTN). This might be
mandated by a key stakeholder for some reason. Of
course if this we not mandated we would be more
general and leave the nature of that connection up to
the designers in order to explore more modern
options for connecting our alarm to the monitoring


But, in keeping with the idea that a picture paints a

thousand words, you get the picture about a context

The context diagram also helps clarify the boundary

between our system and the external systems. For
example, we are not responsible for power to the
system. The power distribution subsystem in our
house is responsible for that. This boundary will
probably constrain our options but it represents a
boundary between our responsibilities and those of
an external system such as the power subsystem.

Also shown on the context diagram are some

external interfaces (listed in red from E01 to E10).
This allows us to start highlighting interfaces that
need to exist across our system boundary in order for
our system to work properly.

Sometime our system will be responsible for

providing something to an external system. For
example, E05 and E06 involve the interface between
the alarm and the telephone network. The alarm
system will be responsible for achieving certain
functions in order to interface with the PSTN in order
to alert the monitoring agent of alarm operation.
One interface may be to provide continuous status
information to the agent whilst another interface
may be responsible for alerting the monitoring agent
to the presence of an alarm event caused by an

Sometimes, our system will expect certain things

from external systems via an interface. For example,
E03 is an interface where our system will expect to
get single phase, 240V AC power at 50 Hz frequency
over a standard powerpoint. These interfaces are
important to us because we need to make sure that
the external system with whom we are interfacing
does, in fact, support the interface we are expecting.

It is now time to translate the business needs into
more formal business requirements.

Whilst undertaking this process, stakeholders are

also required to look at the feasible alternatives
associated with closing the capability gap. Feasibility
assessment will allow the stakeholders to
concentrate their efforts on defining business
requirements around the most feasible solution
space. Note that they have not chosen or defined the
solution at this stage but have merely assessed the

most likely solution option when looking at
requirements. This avoids wasted effort and also
focuses the business requirements, making them
more useful in the following stages.

For example, earlier I mentioned an example of a

military capability gap associated with monitoring
national boarders. The likely options for doing this
(that is the possible solution spaces) may include
satellite surveillance, surveillance from unmanned
aerial vehicles, surveillance from manned aircraft, or
surveillance from warships. These may all be
technically feasible but the business needs and
constraints are likely to rule some options out. For
example, we may not have the money or time to
establish a satellite-based system. We may not have
the manpower or desire to establish warship
capability. The feasible options may be limited to
either manned or unmanned aircraft.

The stakeholders responsible for extracting business

requirements should therefore concentrate on the
feasible solution spaces only.

These business requirements will be more formally

stated than the needs and will eventually guide the
development of engineering requirements for our
system. Whilst the business needs paint a picture of
the problem and desired solution, the resultant
business requirements are a further decomposition
of the needs so that we can understand exactly what
the business requires of the ultimate solution when it
is deployed. We will capture these requirements in a
structured (organised) artefact that we call the
Business Requirements Specification or BRS.

Once the business requirements are established in

the context of the business needs, the stakeholders
can document and record all of the information. We
are going to propose recording all of this information
in the form of an artefact that we call the Business
Need and Requirements which consists of a
preliminary Lifecycle Concept Document or PLCD and
a Business Requirements Specification or BRS

Once produced and updated, we will conduct some

form of requirements review with key stakeholders
and organisational decision makers to review and
agree to the PLCD and the BRS. That will then allow
us to pass this information onto groups of more
operationally focussed stakeholders for refinement
and further development.

We have endorsed Business Needs and Requirements
from the previous work. This shows that
management are confident that there is a need
existing for a new or improved system and that they
understand those needs sufficiently to move on with
the process. We have a preliminary lifecycle concept
document that describes all of the lifecycle concepts
(including concepts of acquisition, operation, support
and disposal) and we have a Business Requirements
Specification that define the agreed business
requirements for the system.

We now look to build on this work by using selected

groups of more operationally focussed stakeholders.
These stakeholders are more on the coal face so to
speak and are able to look over the Business Needs
and Requirements and give them a more refined feel.
To acknowledge the refinement process, we are
going to call the resultant work the Stakeholder
Needs and Requirements. In performing this work,
the operational stakeholders will look over all of the
previous work including the mission, goals and
objectives, the scenarios and the lifecycle concepts.
They may develop more refined scenarios that are
sometimes called vignettes to capture more detail
and operational nuances. They will also refine the
validation criteria in order to communicate how
stakeholders could be convinced that their
expectations have been met.

They will refine the Preliminary Lifecycle Concept

Document into the initial Lifecycle Concept
Document or LCD and they will further develop the
Business Requirements Specification into a
Stakeholder Requirements Specification or StRS. In
some cases, the refinement may be minor but in
other cases the LCD and StRS may represent quite
substantial developments. Regardless, we will finalise
their effort by reviewing the LCD and StRS via
another requirements review.

Armed with endorsed Lifecycle Concepts in the LCD

and endorsed Stakeholder Requirements in the StRS,
we are in a position to embark on a major systems
engineering task within conceptual design. This task
is generally dominated to a system level
requirements analysis.

As an introduction to this process, I need to warn you

that performing requirements analysis and writing
effective system level requirements is a tough job. It
is a job for a team of people because more heads are
better than one. It is a job for experienced people
because practice makes perfect (although you will

find perfection difficult to come by in the
requirements analysis space) and it is a job that
requires iterations, reviews and rework.

We are aiming to describe what the system must be

able to do in order to satisfy the stakeholder
requirements in the StRS. We try to avoid specifying
how the system should be designed at this stage. If
we start specifying the design at this stage, we risk
overlooking innovative ways of solving the problem.
We also risk taking responsibility for a design that
simply doesnt work. We should specify what we
want the system to do and leave the design to the
experts we engage to perform preliminary and
detailed design later in the process.

We will record the system-level requirements in an

artefact that we will call the System Requirements
Specification (SyRS). As we are drafting this artefact,
we establish and maintain traceability from our
system requirements back to the Stakeholder
requirements to ensure that everything we specify
has a reason for being there. We also trace from the
Stakeholder requirements forward to the system-
level requirements to ensure that we have addressed
all of the stakeholder requirements. Traceability
(forwards and backwards) between different levels of
the requirements hierarchy is a cornerstone of
requirements engineering. In this case, it is
traceability between the stakeholder and system-
level requirements that is of interest. Later the
traceability of interest will be between the system-
level requirements and the lower level design
requirements of our solution.

A useful starting point for our requirements

definition effort is to establish a requirements
framework or breakdown structure. We have
probably already established a requirements
breakdown structure in the previous process where
we were looking at the Stakeholders Requirement
Specification. If already established, we can review,
refine and reuse the structure. It not established
already, then now is the time to get one in place.

An example of an RBS for a burglar alarm is


The structure will help us when performing

requirements work because it will allow teams of
people to be working on the task at the same time
without duplicating effort. For example, we could
have one team or person looking at our detection
requirements (under heading 2) whilst another team
or person is looking at reporting requirements under

section 4. The RBS provides a common framework
against which different teams of people can have
discussions and it will provide a common framework
against which requirements can be allocated when
the time comes. This will allow similar requirements
to be grouped and allocated to single sections of the
framework (assisting in correcting conflicting
requirements) and guarding against duplication or
omission of requirements.

We then start performing our system level

requirements analysis. We are looking to answer
some fundamentals questions about our system:
-What does the system need to be able to do? This is
where our functional requirements help. Functional
requirements define what the system needs to be
able to do.
-How well does the system need to be able to
perform those functions. Performance requirements
associated with our functional requirements define
performance levels
-What other characteristics are required of our
system? These are typically emergent properties (or
non-functional requirements) associated with our
system. These might include factors like reliability,
useability or maintainability as examples.
-What other systems are involved with the system?
We may need to define external interface
requirements (probably specialised examples of
functional requirements) associated with our system
-Under what conditions is our system expected to

We also need to be able to define how we are going

to verify our system performance against these
requirements. It is important to note that verification
is a term in systems engineering meaning to confirm
system performance against specified requirements.
Recall that we have used validation in previous
discussions to mean confirmation that our
stakeholders have been satisfied. Often, people use
the two terms interchangeably - which is incorrect.
Also people often combine the terms and describe a
process as being V&V. Unless the acronym V&V is
used carefully, it may also be used incorrectly. If we
are talking about confirming a system against a
specified requirement, we are talking about
verification. Establishing verification requirements at
the same time as writing the functional/non-
functional requirements statements is considered to
be good requirements writing practice. It forces the
author of the requirement to ask how would I
confirm this requirement? It often highlights

problems with the requirements statement and
forces the author to revise the statement in order to
make it more verifiable. This is a worthwhile exercise.

While we are writing our requirements, it is also

recommended to allow authors to record rationale or
notes associated with each requirement. This allows
the author to explain the background to the
requirement for future reference. Traceability may
provide some rationale for the requirement but may
not be enough to explain why a requirement exists.
Rationale may protect requirements from being
changed in the future without due consideration as to
why the requirement was there in the first place.

I can given an example of where I have benefited in

the past from recording rationale. I remember being
responsible for writing requirements for a large
project a number years ago. One day, 5 years after
finishing my task, I received a phone call from
someone on the project asking why I had assigned
specific performance levels against some
requirements. The caller said that I had recorded a
rationale pointing to a meeting I had had with air
traffic controllers relating to controlling aircraft in
tight formation. Once I was reminded of the rationale
(the meeting), I was able to explain exactly why the
requirements were written the way they were and
who the caller should refer to for further information.
In the absence of this rationale, I think I would have
struggled to recall why the requirement was written
that way. It is possible that the requirement would
have been changed with possible adverse
consequences on the relevant stakeholders (in this
case, the air traffic controllers).

Once the requirements have been written, they are

re-read and analysed against the parent stakeholder
requirements to ensure that they are of adequate
depth and detail. Further detail or breakdown occurs
if required. The requirements are then allocated to
one of the locations in the requirements breakdown
structure. We look at the requirements breakdown
structure and work out where within the structure
the requirement best fits. If it turns out that the
requirement could reside in more than one location
in the structure, we make a decision, record it once
and then refer to it from the other locations.
Duplicating and repeating requirements is considered
bad practice and will result in potential conflict and
confusion in the future especially if requirements

We now have our requirements in a structured form
that we will call a System Requirements Specification
(SyRS). This may be a physical document, it may be a
spread sheet or it may be in the form of a structured
and populated database. It could even be in the form
of a model of the desired system that is able to
illustrate the system requirements via simulation.

There are plenty of reference sources around that

explain what structure and content should be used
for this level of specification.

Its form is not as important as its existence.

It is only a draft at the moment because we are likely

to categorise our requirements as mandatory,
important or desirable. For example, we may have a
functional requirement associated with detection
range for our burglar alarm and we might have three
levels of performance. We might say that the alarm
needs to be able to detect a 80 kg human under
certain environmental conditions from 10 m
(mandatory), 12 m (important) and 15 m (desirable).
This allows us some flexibility in expressing our
requirements and also allows us to assess the value
of different solutions when we look at possible
solutions in the next stage. Whilst this concept helps
us at the moment, we will not leave those levels in
the final specification. We will replace those levels
with the agreed level that the selected solution
claims to be able to achieve.

We have been doing a lot of work in order develop

and document the system level requirements. As
discussed earlier, is seems like common sense that
we would review our work before proceeding. This is
certainly the case with our requirements.
Unimaginatively, we are going to call these reviews
system requirements reviews or SRRs. Sometimes, if
we are dealing with a straightforward situation, we
might only conduct single SRR for our system.

But, in all likelihood, a single review wont be

sufficient. We will probably conduct a series of
reviews in a work-review-rework cycle until we are
happy with our set of requirements. This idea of a
series of reviews leading to a complete and agreed
set of requirements is illustrated.

Either way, once we have completed our SRR

process, we are ready to move onto our system level

The draft SyRS is sent to potential solution providers.
These may be external organisation or may be in-
house solution providers.

These providers will review the specification and try

to match it to what they can offer in the form of a
solution. They also note any differences between
their potential offer and the draft SyRS

Differences might be discrepancies or non-

compliances or they might be additional functions or
enhanced performance levels that the proposed
solution will offer.

In most cases, solution providers will propose a

revision of the draft SyRS to make it better align with
their proposed solution.

Potential solution providers also advise the acquirer

of their solution, the cost and schedule associated
with its delivery, and the proposed revision to the

The acquirer considers all of these offers from

different suppliers before making a decision about
which way they are going to proceed.

It is normal to conduct a period of negotiation and

offer definition with the preferred supplier so that
both the acquirer and supplier are very clear about
what is required and what is being offered (including
how the system is going to be verified by the
customer prior to acceptance).

The SyRS will be a very important part of these

discussion and by the end of the discussions, the
specification needs to be refined and agreed and
needs to unambiguously define the what, how well,
etc etc of the proposed solution.

The draft SyRS is sent to potential solution providers.

These may be external organisation or may be in-
house solution providers.

These providers will review the specification and try

to match it to what they can offer in the form of a
solution. They also note any differences between
their potential offer and the draft SyRS

Differences might be discrepancies or non-

compliances or they might be additional functions or
enhanced performance levels that the proposed
solution will offer.

In most cases, solution providers will propose a
revision of the draft SyRS to make it better align with
their proposed solution.

Potential solution providers also advise the acquirer

of their solution, the cost and schedule associated
with its delivery, and the proposed revision to the

The acquirer considers all of these offers from

different suppliers before making a decision about
which way they are going to proceed.

It is normal to conduct a period of negotiation and

offer definition with the preferred supplier so that
both the acquirer and supplier are very clear about
what is required and what is being offered (including
how the system is going to be verified by the
customer prior to acceptance).

The SyRS will be a very important part of these

discussion and by the end of the discussions, the
specification needs to be refined and agreed and
needs to unambiguously define the what, how well,
etc etc of the proposed solution.

Once we have a solid understanding of our

requirements (via the SyRS) and we have selected
and negotiated a preferred solution via system level
synthesis, we conduct a system level design review to
confirm that we are ready to move onto preliminary

Not surprisingly, we call this a System Design Review

or SDR. During SDR, we will investigate:
- the proposed solution
- the refined SyRS
-the traceability back to the Stakeholder
Requirements Specification (StRS) and
-the planning that has been put in place to execute
and manage the technical program

Like all of our reviews, we need to run the SDRlike a

professional technical meeting. This means that we
need to establish an agenda, nominate a
chairperson(s) and secretary, take minutes and action
items, and then follow those up following the

Once complete to the satisfaction of acquirer, we are

ready to move onto the next stage of the process.