Sunday, January 15, 2012

Government technology opportunity

TechAmerica has issued a very readable report entitled Government Technology Opportunity in the 21st Century. There are four top level recommendations:

1. Develop a Professional Program Management Capability (you might ask: isn't this a long time coming? Hasn't the US federal government been in this business since WW II?)
2. Promote Agile/Incremental Development (Now of course this is a genuine newbie)
3. Strengthen Risk Management (again, a bit late, but welcome anyway)
4. Enhance Internal and External Engagement (needed for agile, but needed in any event)

On the first point, this telling quote from someone who contributed to the report:

“Strong program managers have overcome poor requirements, aggressive milestones, limited resources and constrained processes to deliver mission capability, while processes have not been able to compensate for a poor program manager even with clear requirements and sufficient resources.”
On the second point, we are told this:
The benefits of agile/incremental development can be seen in the results of a survey of commercial IT developers published in the June 2008 issue of Dr. Dobb’s Journal and cited by Scott Ambler, Chief Methodologist for Agile and Lean at IBM, in discussing the effectiveness of the methodology.

Survey respondents compared agile to other methodologies and rated it as follows:

 Productivity—82% rated it somewhat or much higher
 Business Stakeholder Satisfaction—78% somewhat or much higher
 Quality—77% somewhat or much higher
 System Development Cost—72% somewhat or much lower
To implement agile, the report goes on to cite a few regulatory and cultural hurdles to overcome. Glen Alleman puts it this way:
... self directed teams sitting in the same room with their customer, letting the requirements emerge as the money is being spent, probably isn't going to pass the smell test of Congressional oversight of spending the public's money

Nevertheless, if the recommendations in this report are acted upon, the federal IT business will be the better for it.