Delivering IT projects in quick increments: 23rd time's the charm?

Perhaps the recent recommendations by a TechAmerica panel finally will inspire agencies to take a more agile approach to system development, writes FCW blogger (and commission co-chairman) Steve Kelman.

Since the early 1990s, when the General Services Administration issued its first report urging the government to move away from "grand design" projects that aimed to deliver an entire new IT system at one time -- with the time being years after the project began -- the idea that it makes more sense to deliver new IT systems in quicker, incremental chunks (now often called "agile development") has been discussed around government. During the late 1990s, this was one of the primary messages of Raines' rules, developed by Franklin Raines, who was then the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as a series of guideposts for improving the delivery of IT projects.

The arguments in favor of delivering new capabilities in chunks – with increments delivered in a six- to 18-month time frame -- remain what they were 20 years ago. The main technical argument is that it is very difficult for users to know what they want before they have actually worked with a new system. Quick releases provide quick user feedback, which allows modifications and course corrections. An incremental approach also helps reduce requirements creep, since requirements can be frozen, or nearly so, while an increment is being developed, with changes waiting till the next increment. Incremental releases allow quicker identification of troubled projects, allowing redirection or cancellation before too much money has been spent. More recently, the use of system architectures has made it easier to have contractors compete increment by increment, unlike the case of grand design systems which typically require a single contractor. Whoever wins a given increment simply bolts it onto the common architecture. And increments more easily accommodate approaches based on the integration of commercial-off-the-shelf integration technology.
 
There are political and psychological advantages as well. Early wins on increments build momentum and enthusiasm that a program is working. And it shouldn't be sneezed at that an incremental approach is more closely tied to the time frame of agency political appointees, who are more likely to show interest and involvement in an IT system if they believe it may actually deliver capability on their watch.
 
The recently released report of the Government Technology Opportunity for the 21st Century panel, which was sponsored by the TechAmerica Foundation (an IT industry group), which I co-chaired, makes a move toward more "agile development" one of its four main recommendations.
 
It is fair to ask why this recommendation should have any impact now, when so many similar recommendations in the past to do this haven't changed things much.
 
Of course, I can't predict with certainty that the 23rd time will be a charm. However, there are some differences. First, these recommendations emphasize what needs to happen for an agile approach to work – the development of templates (probably by the CIO and Chief Acquisition Officer Councils) and training for managing and contracting for agile development; changes to the OMB 300 process away from 10-year plans and projections and a commitment by industry to align its own capabilities toward doing agile development (IT firms with a significant commercial presence are already doing this for their non-government customers).

Second, this is a personal priority for federal CIO Vivek Kundra and for many agency CIOs. And third, there is a generational transition going on in the federal IT workforce, as government hires young people whose only training and experience involves agile development -- and who may refuse to work in a traditional government development environment.
 
No guarantees, but maybe this time?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.