Is the room spinning?
In an effort to tighten things up a bit during these lean economic times, the chief bean counters in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have recently come out with reports recommending the use of Agile for managing future IT projects in government. Agile’s proponents see it as a way to get things done faster, cheaper and generally more efficiently - essentially the opposite of the way that government traditionally does things.
In the U.S. the General Account Office (GAO) recently recommended the adoption of Agile for IT projects, recommending 10 specific practices they’ve found to be effective (e.g., “Obtain stakeholder/customer feedback frequently,” “Empower small, cross-functional teams”), as well as 14 challenges in implementing it (e.g., “Customers did not trust iterative solutions,” “Federal reporting practices do not align with Agile”). This follows 2010 legislation that requires Agile-like processes for Department of Defense-related IT projects.
Across the pond, the U.K.’s National Audit Office (NAO) also recently recommended the use of Agile in all government ICT (information and communications technology) projects, saying “Governance should mirror the philosophy of Agile methods – only do a task if it brings value to the business and does not introduce delays.”
Agile proponents are, naturally, applauding these recommendations. However, not everyone’s on board, as some feel that Agile will never work with current government procurement processes, which require upfront estimates of cost and output.
To that I say “Feh!” The recommendation to use Agile methods is a logical solution to the age-old problem of inefficiencies in government project management, so let’s give it a try. Of course, doing the logical thing isn’t the government’s forte, but they may have gotten it right this time, if only they can stick with the Agile program.
Matter of fact, I think the government should, as others are doing, use Agile methods for non-IT project management. Anyone think that the IRS or Medicare or Social Security is operating at peak efficiency? Perhaps Hillary Clinton could streamline the State Department with daily standups. Or how about having Joe Biden maintain the White House Scrum board? Everyone knows that vice presidents have time to burn.
Someone please tell Brian Williams or Gwen Ifill to ask Obama and Romney about this during the presidential debates.