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InfoQ Homepage News US Department of Defense (DoD) is Going Agile

US Department of Defense (DoD) is Going Agile

US Department of Defense (DoD) is going agile with the help of Dr. Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of the Scrum software development process and CEO of Scrum Inc.

DoD started a program of "DoD IT Modernization" in which enablement of agile is one of the agenda.

While many DoD departments have not yet come to terms with agile, CIO has created a modernization plan as stated below:

The DoD CIO's 10 Point Plan for IT Modernization targets the most pressing, near-term challenges and presents approaches to efficiently and effectively deliver agile, secure, integrated, and responsive IT capabilities. This plan will enable the DoD to reduce costs and deliver faster, more responsive capabilities, while improving interoperability, user satisfaction, cyber security, and ultimately mission success. The primary goal is to enable agile, secure, efficient and effective IT for DoD.

Jeff mentioned in his article on DoD Goes Agile that government wants to move from waterfall to agile development. New acquisition bill of DoD, a set of rules that the department must follow when purchasing anything, mapped with agile. Process of acquisition was defined as follows:

  • Early and continual involvement of the user.
  • Multiple, rapidly executed increments or releases of capability
  • Early, successive prototyping to support an evolutionary approach
  • A modular, open-systems approach.

Basically, for the DoD at least, agile became the law.

Jeff proposed two models of software acquisition for DoD. The first reflects a certain amount of waterfall thinking. It mentions the deployment of software takes place after several builds.

A model of a program that is dominated by the need to develop a complex, usually defense unique, software program that will not be deployed until several software builds have been completed. The central feature of this model is the planned software builds – a series of testable, integrated subsets of the overall capability – which together with clearly defined decision criteria, ensure adequate progress is being made before fully committing to subsequent builds.

Second model talks about the frequent delivery of software. The new model moves the DoD closer to the second value in the Agile Manifesto - working product over comprehensive documentation. They may not meet the agile manifesto principle of delivering product increments in a few weeks to a few months. Yet it is a definite step forward.

This model is distinguished from the previous model by the rapid delivery of capability through several limited fielding's in lieu of single Milestones and a single full deployment. Each limited fielding results from a specific build, and provides the user with mature and tested sub-elements of the overall capability. Several builds and fielding's will typically be necessary to satisfy approved requirements for an increment of capability. The identification and development of technical solutions necessary for follow-on capabilities have some degree of concurrency, allowing subsequent increments to be initiated and executed more rapidly.

Will Hayes, gives guidance to acquisition professionals at the Department of Defense, mentioned in his technical note about the usage of agile while working with RFPs.

If the Project Management Office (PMO) is doing a request for proposal (RFP), no matter which phase, ensure that the RFP contains language that allows the use of Agile. In many instances, the traditional RFP language makes it difficult, if not impossible, to propose an Agile based solution.

Based on Jeff’s experience of agile implementation at DoD, he launched an online course called Agile Defense. It is based on how Scrum, Agile, and the military work together.How to handle agile procurement and contracts in a Defense setting. This course is for both contractors and acquisition professionals.

McCaffrey, retired United States Army general is also in favor of scrum implementation at battlefield. He shared his views on the  book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, as follows:

Scrum is mandatory reading for any leader, whether they’re leading troops on the battlefield or in the marketplace. The challenges of today’s world don’t permit the luxury of slow, inefficient work. Success requires tremendous speed, enormous productivity, and an unwavering commitment to achieving results. In other words success requires Scrum.

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