GAO Report Signals Opportunity for Contractors in Agile Software Development

Applying agile software development methods to IT projects has been a hot topic as of late at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The agency recently unveiled a report highlighting its 32 tips for applying agile development to help improve how the federal government will develop and implement IT infrastructure projects.

Specifically, these tips focus on key areas that will help long-term software development projects from becoming obsolete and/or going over budget, which includes addressing impediments, gaining continuous stakeholder feedback, empowering cross-functional teams and tracking progress daily.

As we recently highlighted, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DoD/VA IPO) have already begun measures that utilize the agile approach in order to transform health IT. The DoD also developed its Global Combat Support System-Joint in an agile environment. This enterprise-wide system was developed by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to enable business processes and modernize information technology required to improve combat effectiveness.

The Office of Management and Budget (OBM) has also recommended modular contracting and agile development as a means to steer over-budget and behind-schedule IT projects back on track. This will be especially useful as agencies and contractors face budget cuts, the new performance-based budgeting guidelines and mandates to improve program performance and efficiency.

In its recent report, the GAO identified best practices with respect to using agile development, which align five key software development and project management solutions: strategic planning, organizational commitment and collaboration, preparation, execution and evaluation. The agency also uncovered ten effective practices out of the agencies identified in its report:

  • Start with agile guidance and an agile adoption strategy
  • Enhance migration to agile concepts using agile terms and examples
  • Continuously improve agile adoption at project and organization levels
  • Look to identify and address impediments at the organization and project levels
  • Get stakeholder/customer feedback often
  • Empower small, cross-functional teams
  • Include requirements related to security and progress monitoring in your queue of unfinished work
  • Gain trust by showing value at the end of each iteration
  • Use tools and metrics to track progress
  • Track progress daily and openly

The report also identifies challenges federal agencies have faced with agile development, which include cross-agency collaboration, proper guidance for using agile, support and mistrust issues with iterative solutions.

With the DoD and VA leading the way, there will clearly be more growth opportunities for contractors to drive agile development. In addition, as government contractors are looking to diversify their business models in the face of sequestration, this practice could pave a new road to revenue growth.

Read the full FedConnects post here.

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