John Dewey said failure is instructive—so what can we learn from past complex system acquisitions? And how can we improve the process? When IT procurement requirements are poorly defined acquisitions can run into trouble—with over-charges, under-estimates and countless change orders. When speed matters, getting the up-front requirements right is crucial. To make acquisitions effective, focus on the essentials: clear, concise requirements, consistency, adequate detail, and realistic performance goals—then your chances for a win-win rise dramatically.