Earlier this year, I began doing research work with CivicActions on agile development in government — who was doing it, how and what the needs were to successfully get it deployed.
After the Healthcare.gov launch mishaps, calls for agile practices as the panacea to all of government IT woes reached a high. While agile as the ultimate solution oversimplifies the issue, we’ve evolved as a profession (both software development and public service) that moving towards an iterative approach to operations is the way of the future.
My own formal introduction with agile began with my work with CivicActions, so the research coincided with an introductory immersion into how government is using it. Having been involved with startups for the past 15 years, iterative development is the norm, however, the layer of project management processes has forced me to be a better professional overall.
What I’ve found through many discussions and interviews is that you can’t just snap your fingers and execute agile within the framework of government bureaucracy. There are a number of issues — from procurement to project management training to executive-level commitment to organizational-wide culture change — that hinder its adoption. For IT, launching a new website or app is this easy part. Changing IT operational processes and culture is often overlooked or avoided, especially for a short-term executive, because they reach into the granular organizational challenges most people don’t want to bother with.
After talking with a number of agile government and private sector practitioners, it was clear there was enthusiasm around how it could be applied to fundamentally change the way government works. Beyond just execution from professional project management professionals, everyone I spoke with talked about how deploying agile gives them a stronger sense of public service.
What came from these discussions is the desire to have a stronger community of practitioners and those interested in deploying it to better support one another.
To meet that need, a group of federal, state, local government and private sector professionals have formed Agile for Gov, a “community-powered network of agile government professionals.”
By bringing applied agile practices to government, we want to redefine the culture of local, state and federal public sector service delivery across all aspects of government. We will work with agile professionals and organizations to support their work in getting agile infused into government processes. We will foster a spirit of openness and mentor those new to agile so that they have the necessary practical advice, resources, tools and community support for successful deployment. Through Agile for Gov, we will create a responsive, engaged government that more efficiently and effectively serves its citizens.
The group has done a ton of behind-the-scenes work and has go-forward plans in place, but also wants your feedback.