Does Your Program Need More Money? Release Sooner!


There is a fad running rampant through government management, and its name is Agile. Ok, so, maybe not a fad.  I mean, it’s a fad in the same way that the iPhone is a fad, or Taylor Swift is a fad.  But it is definitely a hot topic of conversation around the management water cooler.  I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with clients over the last five years begging, practically screaming at the top of their lungs, that they want NEED things run more “agile.”  Honestly, it ranks up there with the number of times the Washington football team is getting dragged into court for having a racially offensive team name and logo.

And while I am all for the adoption of this management technique as it has been proven to lower project costs by returning power to the people that will actually be performing the work, one of the most important reasons for adopting Agile Methodologies is often forgotten.  And that reason is plain and simple: MONEY.  Money — it’s amazing.  It’s what makes the world go round.  Somehow, the government both prints the stuff, yet simultaneously doesn’t have enough of it.  But the best part about adopting Agile is that it will increase both the money you can spend and the influence that it buys you. Let me walk you through how…

Answer me this, how many tools have you procured, services subscribed, or toys acquired before they were released to consumers?  What’s that?  None? Exactly!  That project, that you currently have in your R&D lab, tweaking and modifying until it is perfect, isn’t making you any money.  It is not buying you any influence.  Forget the fact that the lab is where good ideas go to die, that’s a whole different rant; purely a time value of money perspective, why are you holding onto it?  Money today is worth more than money tomorrow. Get it in the hands of your customers, stat!  Let them get excited about it!  Let them take it for a test drive and provide feedback.  Have real people help grow your product backlog, and help you sell your project.  Nobody is saying that you have a final product, but what you do have, what you have been working on for months or years now,  is probably good enough.

Why do I say that it is probably already good enough? The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your software’s functionality will come from 20% of Use Cases (remember, you don’t have requirements in Agile).  So those tweaks, highly possible that they are frosting on the icing on the cake.  Delicious?  Possibly, but really, you already had me at cake.

Now I hear people out there asking, “why do I care about launching early and making a few bucks?  I work for the government, my budget is set annually by [Congress | the Military | some higher authority]….”  First, the only authority figure who can truly set your budget is your spouse.  I mean, I’m a smart guy, but I haven’t begun to crack the code of successfully negotiating Erin for more money.  Second, all government agencies have money that pops up throughout the year that they are required to spend by year’s end or risk never seeing it again.   And if you would like to be in a position to claim some of that money found under the couch cushion, the easiest way to do that is with a proven winner that could use a few “enhancements.”  The conversation would go something like this:

“Oh, you have some extra cash?  Well, my name is [wealthy program owner], and I have this program [xyz] that is currently being used by [x] number of people across [y] organizations.  It provides [a], [b], and [c] already, but we could use some extra cash to fund….”

And, bingo!  Those enhancements that you sold them on, the contracting officer doesn’t care that it came from feedback from early adopters.  They’ll still hold their heads high because they are backing a proven winner with their money.  The formerly loose cash is now safely tucked away in your pocket where it belongs.  And it is all made possible because you took the Agile approach and decided to release sooner!

Steve Palmer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Becky Latka

Timely, since we are in the fourth quarter and trying to spend some cash! We always have a few projects scoped out and ready to go for last minute expenditure.