Feds turn to agile development as budget cuts loom
The VA 'is a huge fan' of agile
Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- Federal agencies, including the Defense Department, are facing unprecedented budget problems that are creating a new reality for government IT.
Government agencies, which spend about $80 billion a year on IT, are preparing for a possible shutdown as early as next month, as well as spending cuts from 8% to 10% if Congress doesn't end the default and sequestration threats. On top of this, agencies continue to operate on short-term budgets because lawmakers have yet to approve the yearly budget.
"This lack of budgetary stability makes it very hard to plan, and I think extremely hard to plan well," said Robert Hale, the comptroller and chief financial officer at the Defense Department, in a talk this month at the Brookings Institution.
In this turbulent environment, Kris van Riper, who heads the consulting firm CEB's (formerly known as Corporate Executive Board) government practice, said she is seeing increasing interest in agile development at agencies.
"Planning out multiyear projects where you don't see the deliverables for extended time periods in a traditional waterfall method really isn't going to work," said van Riper.
Agile methodology emphasizes collaboration with developers, managers and customers -- anyone with a stake in a project outcome -- as well as iterative development cycles that produce deliverables in short increments.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was a relatively early adopter of agile development. The VA's CIO, Roger Baker, said, "we are huge fans of agile, and are using it in our most critical programs."
Baker, in an email, said that the agile development process has been successful because of customer involvement.
"Most critically, we get the customer deeply involved in the program, defining what the system must do, how it should do it, what the workflow must be, and how the UI (user interface) should look," Baker said.
As a result of this participation, "the end users are always happy with the end product, and they feel like it's their system, not ours," said Baker. "And the code is less buggy, frankly."
The VA has about 200 ongoing development programs, but it is not using agile in all of them. "I'd insist on agile in all programs, but I don't think we yet have the breadth of expertise to draw on to do so," Baker said.
Sanjiv Augustine, president of LitheSpeed, a Washington area agile consulting firm, said the budget problems with Congress are pushing adoption of agile.
Just as the recession helped drive the private sector toward greater agile adoption "in search of faster delivery and better results," said Augustine, "it appears that looming budget problems are beginning to have the same catalytic effect in the public sector."
Agile has gotten traction in some defense and intelligence areas, said Bob Payne, vice president at LitheSpeed. Those areas typically have shorter deadlines, are more mission focused "and need to rapidly adapt to new situations," he said.
The budget problems "have added fertilizer" to the push to adopt agile, said Lawrence Fitzpatrick, president of Computech Inc., a software services firm, who is on the Agile Development Committee for the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council.
"If you can show results sooner and more effectively, the chance that you won't be defunded goes up," Fitzpatrick said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.
- The 20 Best iPhone/iPad Games of 2013 So Far
- 9 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand (and Your Career)
- 7 Consumer Technologies Coming to an Enterprise Near You
- 11 Signs Your IT Project is Doomed
- A walking tour: 33 questions to ask about your company's security
- 15 social media scams
- The 7 elements of a successful security awareness program
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Federal IT Innovation Caught in a Catch-22
- Fed resources shoring up old infrastructure, holding back new technologies.
- Harness IT -- An Introduction to Business Intelligence Solutions
- Learn the key selection criteria required to provide your organization with the capability to address structured data, unstructured data and mobile demands so...
- Business Intelligence Shows its Smarts
- Today's Business Intelligence (BI) tools provide a new way to think about data with self-service capabilities and user-friendly analytics that can be used...
- Proactive Planning for Big Data
- Big data is less about the terabytes and more about the query tools and business intelligence needed to make sense of massive amounts...
- Inquiry Spotlight: Consumer-Facing Identity
- The challenges of consumer-facing identity management, access management, and authentication differ in ways subtle and dramatic from those of the employee-facing variety. All Government IT White Papers
- Becoming An Analytics Driven Organization
- Join us on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT and learn how your agency can create an analytics culture that will enable...
- 3 Reasons Why Sepaton is the World's Fastest Backup Solution
- Leading analyst, Storage Switzerland learns how Sepaton backs up and deduplicates massive data volumes while maintaining the industry's fastest performance - all in...
- Enterprise File Sharing: All You Need to Know
- Security. Scalability. Control. These are just some of the many benefits of enterprise cloud file-sharing that you'll discover in this KnowledgeVault, packed with...
- Bridging HTTP and FTP with FileXpress Internet Server
- What if you could take an FTP server on your internal network, and allow external users (partners or customers) to securely access it...
- MFT and FileXpress - An Overview
- Business users and applications exchange files on a regular basis. File transfer is a core part of the flow of business activity. All Government IT Webcasts