Agility. Enabled by Agile.

Agility has been a key attribute for success over the past year and a half. Everyone had to quickly adapt in their personal and professional lives to do things in new ways to keep business and society running. Even the great bureaucracy of government found itself pivoting and quickly changing "how it's always been done" to meet the needs of the day. This should not end with the return to what feels like pre-pandemic normal. In the form of Agile methodology, Agility will play a huge role in the government's ability to continue the fast-forwarded digital push as a result of the pandemic.

Just as government pushed agencies to try Cloud with the "Cloud First" initiative, some are suggesting the same approach for Agile. An "Agile-First" evolution would have a huge impact on IT modernization efforts, accelerating the move from legacy processes and technology to a modern digital approach. The response to COVID-19 showed that the government can move quickly in changing how they do work (across all areas of government). An Agile-first "mandate" could institutionalize that speed and make it the rule rather than the exception.

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Databases – Evolving at the Speed of Technology

The way we look at and use databases has changed dramatically over the past several years. Starting with data center consolidation mandates and the push to Cloud First and later Cloud Smart, agencies across government have been reinventing how they use and access databases.

DevOps is making an impact on how databases are planned and managed. The continuous updates and faster releases are being applied to database management to make government more agile. It also acts to make government systems more secure. The DevOps process that introduces more automation and continuous improvement means that human-related data errors can be mitigated earlier in deployment processes. Combined with encryption, this approach of granting access to sensitive data to those with the correct permissions can also mask the data in copies of databases used for development and testing.

The potential "downside" of DevOps throughout government is the fact that application developers are being asked to double as database administrators to maintain fluidity in the process and support an agency's rapid release cycle. But, if we recognize this concept of the "accidental database administrator," we can get them the tools to succeed. Software as a Service-based application performance management (APM) is one tool that developers can use to continuously identify performance and availability issues leading to proactive reporting of matters that may be "beyond their pay grade."

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Developing Interest in DevOps

DevOps, a combination of the words development and operations, is designed to smooth the frequently problematic handoff between an organization's developers and its operations staff. It is an operational philosophy that has technology developers and the operational team who will use the technology working together closely through the entire development of a technology solution. The goal of this approach is quick releases of solutions that have an immediate impact on how people do their jobs.

On the surface this sounds like a perfect fit for government, an "industry" in need of fast digital transformation to meet citizen needs. The DevOps promise of making application development quicker and cheaper is incredibly attractive to the government. However, the third part of the promise, collaboration, proves to be the most problematic as culture and process stand in the way.

From a culture perspective, organizations need to break down silos and create brand new teams focused on an application's output, rather than on tactical roles. To achieve this goal, individuals need to be empowered with autonomy and be enabled with strong communication skills to ensure everyone understands their roles and buys into the overall project objective. As U.S. Special Operations Command CIO Lisa Costa described it, "creating a DevOps culture is akin to practicing tactical shooting. You remove all extraneous movement, and that's how you get efficiency." She said her team focused on stripping away processes that had accumulated over the years but were not serving the objective of getting solutions out to the field quickly. Continue reading

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

DevOps Shines as Federal IT Modernization Efforts Grow

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

The Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT) and other related initiatives are pushing agencies to move away from aging, legacy applications as well as costly, complex software projects. The goal is to have more secure, agile, and cost-effective IT infrastructures replace them.

DevOps, a moniker that is a combination of development and operations, is emerging as an approach that could help Federal agencies modernize and speed new development efforts, especially as they migrate to cloud services. DevOps is a software engineering culture as well as a practice that advocates automation and monitoring throughout the software development lifecycle. It generally pairs development teams with IT operations throughout the development cycle, eliminating the somewhat adversarial role that sometimes has naturally formed in many organizations. Continue reading