An Agile Modernization

As government agencies look to respond to modernization calls from the executive branch as well as citizens at large, agile and DevOps practices are being employed to help speed time to "market" with new applications. A report issued in early 2019 found that sixty-nine percent of respondents said that their organizations are piloting agile, if not partially or fully adopting it. But, the same report also saw a significant percentage of respondents say that agile met their expectations "less than expected" and "much less than expected." So, if agile is seeing an uptick in use, why is it not meeting expectations?

The issue may lie heavily in training and understanding. Agile is not just a new process; it's a new mindset. It requires a new organizational structure that is a departure from the traditional command and control hierarchy of government. Agile teams are relatively flat with everyone holding interconnected and equally important roles. There's not only a logistical change that needs to happen in terms of org charts and structures, but also a cultural shift to a collaboration-driven rather than command-driven environment.

To begin really seeing the benefits of adaptability, speed, and cost efficiencies agile promises, people need to be trained not only on the process but on the softer skills of communication and collaboration that power the process. We've pulled together a collection of upcoming events that may help. Continue reading

Acquiring Knowledge on Government Acquisition

For those of us in the government market, October is the time to break out the Happy New Year noisemakers and celebrate the new government fiscal year (GFY). Each August and September is a frantic race for agencies to spend their remaining budget, which poses opportunity but a lot of hard work for the vendors that want to earn some of this end-of-year shopping spree money. In recent years, the turning of the new fiscal year has also meant uncertainty. From shut downs to continuing resolutions, the switch from one year to the next has not been as smooth as flipping a calendar page.

A group of senators has come forth to raise concerns about this annual end-of-year frenzy. A recent report found that the last week of the fiscal year accounts for 12.3 percent of spending [on IT]. Numerous other reports over the years have found similar statistics. In 2017 this equated to $11 billion in the final week of the year -- almost five times more than the average weekly spending for that year. This spending happens because agencies are afraid if they do not use all the money they are allocated, their budgets will go down in the future. This group of senators, as well as others in government, are looking at options for reforming the system to eliminate the potential waste resulting from this fast spending. Continue reading

Department Spotlight: DoD – More Money, More Opportunity?

With the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 passing in February, the defense discretionary funding cap was increased by $80 billion in FY2018 and $85 billion in FY2019. The DoD now has over $700 billion in their budget. This type of legislation is not unprecedented with BBAs issued in 2013 and 2015. However, the 2018 deal does stand out in terms of the amount of money added to funding caps.

So what are defense agencies doing with this influx of federal dollars? According to research from Market Connections, two thirds of Defense decision makers say that money will go toward projects that have been stalled due to budget disagreements and continuing resolutions. This means that agencies are not necessarily investing in net new work, rather using the influx to put existing plans and programs into action. Those projects getting the kick start range widely, with a large portion involving cybersecurity, modernization initiatives, and training. Continue reading

Opening Up Government Through Technology

There's a huge buzz and movement about opening up government. There are three phrases that are used frequently in relation to openness in government but each mean something a bit different.[Tweet "The focus on openness is changing the way IT is designed, developed, and implemented. #GovEventsBlog"]

  1. Open Government - This is a core tenant of our democracy, the belief that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. While this has always been a practice of government (via the Freedom of Information Act), with the move to digital records the way people want to receive and the way the government can share information has changed dramatically.
  2. Open Data - This is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone. Much of the information the government holds should be open data, but giving people the access they require has been a stumbling block to open government.
  3. Open Source - This is the technical piece of the "open" puzzle. Open Source is software for which the code is made freely available and may be used and changed. Open Source solutions allow people to not only get at the data but also work with that data in new ways.

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Becoming Agile with Government Technology Solutions

Agile is an iterative approach to software delivery, building solutions from the onset of a project rather than trying to deliver it near the end. The use of this methodology is built on the need for flexibility and adaptation to changing requirements. It is a response to the reality of building modern technology solutions, software, and processes. As nothing stays static in today's business climate, the way systems are developed had to change.[Tweet "Becoming Agile with Government Technology Solutions. #GovEventsBlog"]

Agile is a departure from the traditional waterfall development practice defined by linear and sequential order. A solution in a waterfall project cannot move forward until the previous step is completed. Once that step is complete, there is no going back to fix or change it - even if business needs require a change. In contrast, Agile-led projects are focused on delivery of smaller pieces of the solution with the understanding that failure is ok and an inevitable part of the process. Since all of the pieces of an application are not as dependent on one another, failure in one area will not break the whole system as it would in a waterfall process.

The adoption of Agile in government has been slow but steady. There are both cultural and procedural barriers to wide adoption of Agile. Procurements must be written differently to enable an Agile approach, and people working on the projects have to be willing to shift their thinking and workflows to accommodate the Agile process. Agencies, tired of long development cycles that result in technology that is out of date by the time it launches, have begun trying out Agile approaches and finding great success. Localities can quickly roll out digital solutions to citizens, systems become more secure, and agencies can meet cloud migration mandates and goals.[Tweet "Agencies tired of long development cycles, have begun trying #Agile approaches with great success. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading