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FCW : July 30, 2015
July 30, 2015 FCW.COM 21 most commonly reported score on the July 2 call was a 9/10, indicating that the team was very happy and/or that a public self-reported scoring system promotes some degree of grade inflation. The team used “a lot of the tools any startup would use,” said co-founder and CEO Henry Poole, though email factored into the equation “only a little bit.” Instead, the team’s tools of the trade revolved around communication and collaboration: Slack, Trello and the 18F-mandated GitHub, in addition to Jenkins for continuous monitoring and the Ubuntu open-source operating system on an Ama- zon Web Services stack. ‘Fiercely open’ The agile tenets of iterative design, failing fast and trying again, and constant communication among team members underpin their work, but they are particularly proud of their “fiercely open” attitude. “If some other vendor started using our work, that would be a success for us,” quipped Poole, adding that CivicActions had fully embraced the call for open development long before 18F’s agile services BPA. The guts of the project CivicActions developed for the RFQ are viewable in an open GitHub repository, per 18F’s instruc- tions, but the company has gone a step beyond calling for teamwork among contractors and has been offering advice to competitors on its blog. Part of that attitude is predicated on the notion that any particular tool or line of code is far less important than the people who make an operation tick. Competitors are free to technically mimic CivicActions, but the company’s selling point is its “humanware,” not its software, Poole said. Pava said older, established federal contractors talk the agile talk, but they often stumble trying to walk the walk, which makes 18F’s BPA a great filter for future work. “Dinosaurs just can’t fake [a functional, open, agile process] and deliver in 10 days,” Pava said. “That’s why this [BPA] is so awesome.” Dealing with delays 18F’s BPA opened June 17 and was slated to close June 26, but that deadline was pushed back twice because of a torrent of vendor questions about the novel approach. Solicitations finally closed July 7. “Right as we’re closing up, they extend that deadline,” Pava lamented. “It feels like you’re running a race, you’re winning the race, and then the race gets extended.” The delays gave laggards a chance to catch up, he added, and partially defeated the RFQ’s purpose of giving vendors an opportunity to show that they could turn out a working product in a short amount of time. Despite the delays, CivicActions’ leaders say 18F’s BPA process will be a force for good in the government. Plenty of big contractors are angling to be among the 20 firms chosen for the BPA, “but I think it’s scary for them,” Poole said. “Win or lose, it’s not really the point,” Pava added. “This is the first step in what’s probably going to be a long game.” That game involves convincing feds to truly accept agile, and although it won’t be easy — 18F hasn’t been welcomed by the whole of government — the BPA is a valuable step, Pava said. “If we’re truly going to transform government, it has to be collaborative, it has to be open,” he said. n 0730fcw_020-021.indd 21 7/14/15 1:59 PM
July 15, 2015
August 15, 2015