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FCW : July 15, 2013
24 July 15, 2013 FCW.COM Three years into its ve-year plan, the U.S. Postal Service has made agile its default development methodology By Frank Konkel The U.S. Postal Service has one of the largest and most complex IT infrastructures in the world, and its growing preference for agile software develop- ment is having a positive effect on the agency s bottom line --- and the mail- ing industry as a whole. USPS created a ve-year road map for adopting agile methodologies in January 2010. However, pilot projects at each of its four development cen- ters set the framework for of cially replacing the traditional waterfall methodology for almost all projects in March 2013. One such project, the Mail Trans- port Equipment Online Ordering Sys- tem (MTEOR), now lets mailers order and track mail transport equipment (MTE) --- the sacks, trays, pallets and wheeled containers used when mov- ing mail within or between facilities. Before MTEOR, Mail Transport Equipment Service Centers (MTESCs) across the country processed approxi- mately 230,000 annual orders for mailing equipment from 1,800 postal facilities and large-volume mailers via phone calls or email messages --- with no good way to con rm, cancel, alter or track orders. USPS officials have known this was a problem for the better part of a decade, but they couldn t address it because project plans were too cost- ly under the waterfall methodology, said John Edgar, vice president of IT at USPS. But of cials again brought the prob- lem to their IT shop 18 months ago, and this time the department assessed costs and created a timeline based on an agile approach that incorporated fast deliverables and daily meetings of IT of cials and customers to ensure that the project moved forward as planned. In waterfall development, "IT goes off and builds something that 12 months later might not meet the customer s expectations," Edgar said, noting that in times of austerity and rapidly changing technology, that approach rarely makes sense. "The intent was to nd a way to deal with changes where we could be more responsive to changing custom- er expectations and raising the visibil- ity of what we were doing throughout the development s life cycle back to our business partners," Edgar said. "We wanted to better partner with our business organizations and maintain a more consistent and visible engage- ment between teams where we could prioritize requirement building so we get the most important things done rst." The private sector has used agile development for some time, but for an organization as large as USPS, which employs more than 500,000 people, change rarely happens fast. In MTEOR s case, though, it did. In March 2012, funding was approved with a hard deadline to launch the new system by September 2012 for the USPS goes all-in on agile development
June 30, 2013
July 30, 2013