Category: Readiness & Fit Analysis

Organizations and federal agencies seeking to adopt Agile often struggle because they do not understand the adoption risks involved when contemplating the use of Agile approaches. This ongoing series on Readiness and Fit Analysis (RFA) focuses on helping federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and other organizations in regulated settings, understand the risks involved when contemplating or embarking on a new approach to developing or acquiring software. This blog post, the seventh in a series, explores issues related to the technology environment that organizations should consider when adopting Agile approaches.

This blog post is the sixth in a series on Agile adoption in regulated settings, such as the Department of Defense, Internal Revenue Service, and Food and Drug Administration.

"Across the government, we've decreased the time it takes across our high-impact investments to deliver functionality by 20 days over the past year alone. That is a big indicator that agencies across the board are adopting agile or agile-like practices," Lisa Schlosser, acting federal chief information officer, said in a November 2014 interview with Federal News Radio. Schlosser based her remarks on data collected by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) over the last year. In 2010, the OMB issued guidance calling on federal agencies to employ "shorter delivery time frames, an approach consistent with Agile" when developing or acquiring IT. As evidenced by the OMB data, Agile practices can help federal agencies and other organizations design and acquire software more effectively, but they need to understand the risks involved when contemplating the use of Agile. This ongoing series on Readiness & Fit Analysis (RFA) focuses on helping federal agencies and other organizations in regulated settings understand the risks involved when contemplating or embarking on a new approach to developing or acquiring software. Specifically, this blog post, the sixth in a series, explores issues related to system attributes organizations should consider when adopting Agile.

Federal agencies depend on IT to support their missions and spent at least $76 billion on IT in fiscal year 2011, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The catalyst for the study was congressional concern over prior IT expenditures that produced disappointing results, including multimillion dollar cost overruns and schedule delays measured in years, with questionable mission-related achievements. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2010 issued guidance that advocates federal agencies employ "shorter delivery time frames, an approach consistent with Agile." This ongoing series on the Readiness & Fit Analysis (RFA) approach focuses on helping federal agencies and other organizations understand the risks involved when contemplating or embarking on the adoption of new practices, such as Agile methods. This blog posting, the fifth in this series, explores the Practices category, which helps organizations understand which Agile practices are already in use to formulate a more effective adoption strategy.

Government agencies, including the departments of Defense, Veteran Affairs, and Treasury, are being asked by their government program office to adopt Agile methods. These are organizations that have traditionally utilized a "waterfall" life cycle model (as epitomized by the engineering "V" charts). Programming teams in these organizations are accustomed to being managed via a series of document-centric technical reviews that focus on the evolution of the artifacts that describe the requirements and design of the system rather than its evolving implementation, as is more common with Agile methods. Due to these changes, many struggle to adopt Agile practices. For example, acquisition staff often wonder how to fit Agile measurement practices into their progress tracking systems.

In our work with the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, we often encounter organizations that have been asked by their government program office to adopt agile methods. These are organizations that have traditionally utilized a "waterfall" life cycle model (as epitomized by the engineering "V" charts) and are accustomed to being managed via a series of document-centric technical reviews that focus on the evolution of the artifacts that describe the requirements and design of the system rather than its evolving implementation, as is more common with agile methods.

The adoption of new practices, such as agile or any new practice for that matter, is a task that is best undertaken with both eyes open. There are often disconnects between the adopting organization's current practice and culture and the new practices being adopted. This posting is the second installment in a series on Readiness & Fit Analysis (RFA), which is a model and method for understanding risks when contemplating or embarking on the adoption of new practices, in this case agile methods.

All software engineering and management practices are based on cultural and social assumptions. When adopting new practices, leaders often find mismatches between those assumptions and the realities within their organizations. The SEI has an analysis method called Readiness and Fit Analysis (RFA) that allows the profiling of a set of practices to understand their cultural assumptions and then to use the profile to support an organization in understanding its fit with the practices' cultural assumptions. RFA has been used for multiple technologies and sets of practices, most notably for adoption of CMMI practices.